He shares the prize with two other recipients, including Uta Bilow, of Technische Universität Dresden, Germany. Cecire and Bilow have worked together to coordinate yearly international particle physics masterclasses that connect scientists from experiments done at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland, Fermilab near Chicago, and other laboratories, to school students across the world.
“I am really, really honored,” Cecire said. “Here’s the thing: First of all, it’s an award from the European Physical Society, the counterpart to our American Physical Society, so it’s pretty important to our field. Uta and I have been working for a long time and didn’t expect this. It means they appreciate what we’ve been doing and th, and that means a lot.”
QuarkNet is a national, educational program run by the University of Notre Dame and sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. The goal is to support science education in schools by establishing a network of physics teachers who collaborate with physicists at universities and national laboratories. Cecire, in his role with QuarkNet, began working as a co-coordinator of masterclasses with Bilow around 2009.
A masterclass in particle physics involves bringing students to a laboratory or university, online or in person, with a teacher to become “particle physicists for a day.” The class includes introductory lessons in particle physics, experiments, and presentations. Students and teachers use data from experiments like the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) at the LHC or MINERvA at Fermilab and learn to take measurements using the data. The class wraps up with a video conference and usually takes place February through April.
Cecire said his favorite part of the job is working with teachers.
“The teachers who join are interested in learning, and motivated, and they bring in interested and motivated kids,” he said. “As a result, they learn so quickly and it’s fun to watch. Interacting with them and their students is great.”
The third winner of this year’s award from the European Physical Society is Sascha Mehlhase, of Ludwig-Maximimilians Universität in Munich, Germany, who coordinates outreach for another experiment at the LHC, the A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (ATLAS) experiment.
“I was delighted to get the news that Ken will be receiving the award for outreach by the European Physics Society,” said Mitchell Wayne, physics professor and principal investigator for QuarkNet. “Ken and I have worked together for many years, and I have seen firsthand his unbounded enthusiasm and tireless efforts to promote physics education and outreach around the world. I can’t think of a more deserving recipient for this award.”