TRANSFERRING ADVANCED PHYSICS RESEARCH TOOLS TO EDUCATION: HOW TO TEACH SIMULATION TOOLS USED IN RADIATION PHYSICS RESEARCH TO UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
University of Wollongong (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:At the School of Physics, Engineering Department, of University of Wollongong (UOW), we are implementing a hands-on computing laboratory, to be activated in autumn session 2010, to transfer scientific computing methodologies and modern, advanced research tools for radiation physics to both undergraduates and postgraduates. Engaging undergraduates and postgraduates together in work with a tool widely used in research laboratories is, as far as we know, a unique development, and represents the articulation of the University’s commitment to the enhancement of the teaching/research nexus and to the development of learning communities.
The object of the laboratory is to teach students how to use Geant4, to study radiation physics related problems. Geant4 (www.cern.ch/geant4) is a Monte Carlo Simulation Toolkit, describing the interactions of particles with matter. It is widely used in research laboratories all over the world, from High Energy Physics to medical physics and space science. While the Geant4 Collaboration organizes courses all around the world to familiarise researchers and postgraduates to the Toolkit, no attention is paid to undergraduates.
The objectives of our program are that, upon completion of the practical laboratory, the students will be familiar with radiation physics and its applications, software development methodologies, computing instruments for research, the Monte Carlo approach, C++ language. They will also have had an unique opportunity to improve their problem solving skills and to get in touch with the research world methodologies.
The design of the Geant4 practical lab has had to face two important issues: the heterogeneous computing skills and different knowledge of radiation physics of the students. Independent of their education grade, they have different expertise with programming, and computing matters in general. Given our experience with postgraduates and PhDs at the beginning of their research Geant4-based work, the majority of students do not have any knowledge of computing programming, or simulation tools. This problem can be easily overcome because Geant4 is developed for use by non computing experts. However, its correct use requires a deep knowledge of radiation physics; this poses the second issue to be faced.
Undergraduates and postgraduates typically have a significantly different level of knowledge of radiation physics. Usually postgraduates have a more comprehensive knowledge of the subject, given their longer university career, and are more committed to their studies, as they are starting a research project in their Masters/Honours thesis. Their motivation will be one factor supporting undergraduates, in that working with Geant4 should foster a learning community, providing undergraduates with a sense of future. Furthermore, we think we can overcome the problem of lower levels of knowledge through designing a guided hands-on course, providing ad-hoc Geant4 simulation exercises for students, based on their level of preparation.
This course is intended to increase significantly the level of preparation of undergraduates in radiation physics. Based on our experience, students tend to put more effort in the study when they are challenged with problems to solve, in a field of interest. Our approach should develop learning communities and enhance the teaching/research nexus. This course has high potential to increase the commitment of physics students towards radiation physics.
Keywords: Teaching/Research nexus, radiation physics research, undergraduate education, Geant4.