The workshop, “Physics of Atomic Nuclei (PAN) – Underground,” was presented by Dr. Peggy McMahan Norris, senior research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She was assisted by Tina Keller, Ph.D., of the USD physics program and Cathy Ezrailson, Ph.D., with the USD School of Education. Science teachers from South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska spent the week learning the fundamentals of nuclear and particle physics, as well as the technical and engineering issues associated with constructing experiments in a deep underground environment.

During the workshop, teachers performed several experiments on nuclear radiation, including shielding and half-life measurements, and each teacher received a Geiger counter for their classrooms. They also built cloud chambers, which are used for detecting particles of ionizing radiation, to be used in their classrooms for demonstrations. The culminating workshop project included the construction of a cosmic ray detector, which will be housed at USD but available – by request – to science teachers in South Dakota for use in their classrooms.

Funding for the workshop was provided by the South Dakota Board of Regents, The University of South Dakota, NSF EPSCoR (through Black Hills State University), the U.S. Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the American Physical Society Forum on Education and the Contemporary Physics Education Project.

For more information about the workshop, please contact Tina Keller at (605) 677-6125. A photo of the teachers with the cosmic ray detector is available for download at

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