Coast students wowed by the Synchrotron

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Coast students wowed by the Synchrotron

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Published on 29 November 2012

29 November 2012

Two Nambour State High School students have conducted experiments at the largest stand-alone piece of scientific infrastructure in the southern hemisphere during a research expedition led by University of the Sunshine Coast academic Roland De Marco.

USC’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research Professor De Marco was joined by Nambour State High School dux Samantha Cat, Year 11 student Kurt Crebbin and Science teacher Neil Gordon at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne earlier this month.

The Australian Synchrotron is a national research facility that produces highly intense light, ranging from infra-red to hard X-rays, which is used in a wide variety of cutting edge scientific experiments.

The students were invited to the Synchrotron by Professor De Marco who is undertaking a research project funded by the Australian Research Council to develop new materials for the chemical sensing of nutrients in the environment.

“This is a big science facility which is the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground,” Professor De Marco said.

“The students were able to tour the back room, see all of the magnets and hear about the electrons being produced and accelerated down a linear accelerator going into a booster ring, which basically accelerates them to near the speed of light.

“So the students were able to contextualise many of the high technology things they learn about in chemistry and physics, and see this fancy machine that is actually using those scientific principles.”

Professor De Marco said a tour of the Synchrotron beamline and a live lecture were also linked back to students in a classroom at Nambour State High School.

“A variety of abstract chemistry and physics study concepts were put into context as part of an applied project to develop an innovative sensor technology to analyse important nutrients like nitrate in seawater,” he said.

“This is a huge environmental problem. The CSIRO and many researchers around the world are interested in nutrients in the environment but, as part of this problem, we need to develop new materials and we need to understand how these novel materials work.”

Nambour State High School Science teacher Neil Gordon said the research expedition had been a positive experience for all students involved.

“Seeing real-life uses of the sciences studied was really inspirational for Samantha who, academically, really soaked up the entire experience,” Mr Gordon said.

“The visit has moved Kurt towards a career in physics. He really enjoyed the hands-on experience and when it was his turn to have a go at one of the procedures, he was brilliant and did it very quickly.”

Michelle Widdicombe

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