Our research projects

Our research projects

We are currently working on the projects listed below in collaboration with various universities. You may also be interested in our publications.

PhD projects - ongoing

Panagiota Chatzidaki (2022 - present). Design and Evaluation of Virtual and Interactive Physics Learning Units. University of Lund, Prof. Dr. U. Eriksson

Driven by the global pandemic, an increasing need for virtual educational tools has pushed S’Cool LAB towards the development of a new virtual learning format, referred to as ‘’Virtual and Interactive Learning Units’’. These units consist of a combination of interactive elements, screen experiments, and pre-recorded videos and expert interviews. The aim of Panagiota’s PhD project is to design and evaluate such virtual and interactive learning units about CERN-related physics topics and applications. The effect of the designed units on students’ physics understanding and interest will be examined through a series of questionnaires and interviews.

Sarah Zöchling (2019 - present). The role of interesting topics and contexts in physics education. University of Vienna, Prof. M. Hopf

Previous studies show that students’ interest differs across physics topics such as mechanics or electricity, as well as different contexts in which these topics are taught such as medicine or sports. The aim of Sarah’s PhD project is to find out which physics topics and contexts are interesting for today’s students. In particular, she will investigate students' perception of modern physics topics, since open questions of current research might be able to spark students’ interest. Moreover, contexts suitable to narrow the gender gap will be identified. Therefore, questionnaires and interview guidelines will be developed, adapted, and tested, and data from students with various backgrounds will be collected and analyzed.

PhD projects - completed

Fabian Bernstein (2018 - 2021) Low-Cost Modern Physics Experiments for the Classroom: Perspectives of Students and Teachers. University of Frankfurt, Prof. T. Wilhelm

Fabian is investigating how emerging technologies such as 3D printing or augmented reality can be used to bring modern physics experiments to the classroom. In order to facilitate the use of newly developed hands-on activities, he is also seeking to explore teachers’ and students’ perspectives on practical lab work.

Oliver Keller (2017 - 2020). Learning about radioactivity using pixel detectors: Development and investigation of new experimental tools. University of Geneva, Prof. A. Müller & M. Benoit

Oliver developed a novel educational tool named iPadPix which combines an iPad mini with a Timepix pixel detector from CERN (Medipix collaboration). The device visualises radioactivity in real-time and by means of augmented reality. Since pixel detectors allow to distinguish different particle types and properties like particle energy, they offer unique advantages as educational tools for the physics classroom. Oliver is currently developing a mobile and open pixel detector platform around the Timepix3 chip using energy-efficient multi-core processors. The aim is to improve the accessibility and usability of the technology in different educational settings, indoors as well as outdoors. He is also studying physics experiments which explore the advantages of pixel detectors.

Julia Woithe (2014 - 2020). Development and Evaluation of the Hands-on Particle Physics Learning Laboratory S'Cool LAB at CERN. Impact of Student and Laboratory Characteristics on Cognitive and Affective Effects. University of Kaiserslautern, Prof. J. Kuhn & University of Geneva, Prof. A. Müller

In the framework of Julia's PhD project, the student laboratory itself, as well as learning activities for various experiments, have been developed following an iterative design process. Workshops are studied with regard to their affective and cognitive effects taking into account students' interests and character traits as well as students’ perception of the various laboratory characteristics such as cognitive load, tutor support, and cognitive activation. Preliminary results of this quantitative study based on pre-visit and post-visit questionnaires confirm, that S'Cool LAB workshops have a positive effect on students' interest and self-concept as well as on their conceptual understanding of particle physics. Multiple linear regression analysis and multilevel modelling are used to identify important predictors of these effects. Her thesis is available here.

Alexandra Jansky (2016 - 2019). Development of a teaching concept on learning about radioactivity: physics phenomena based on randomness & the benefits of new devices. University of Vienna, Prof. M. Hopf

Alexandra studied students' conceptions about randomness in the (particle) physics context through semi-structured interviews with high-school students. The results of a category-based content analysis confirmed, that students might have problems understanding processes in (particle) physics because of misleading conceptions of randomness. The results of this study were used to develop and test a teaching concept on radioactivity. Her thesis (in German) is available here.


Master's theses - completed

Hashim Gillani Syed (2019) Development of Data Serialization and Transmission for a Pixel Detector Platform
Applied University of Karlsruhe, Prof. M. Bantel; CERN project supervisor O. Keller

Hashim continued the hardware development for our educational pixel detector platform towards portable use cases. He evaluated and compared data serialisation protocols that can be used directly on energy-efficient embedded systems like memory-constrained microcontrollers. Pixel data transmission over WiFi and local SD card storage was successfully implemented on the ESP32 chipset and a proof-of-concept was developed for the xCore 200 processor series from XMOS.

Sarah Zöchling (2019) Visualizations in particle physics – Learning aids or obstacles?
University of Vienna, Prof. M. Hopf; CERN project supervisor A. Jansky; CERN-THESIS-2019-341

In teaching particle physics various visualizations are used to illustrate abstract concepts, but little is known on what learners discern from such representations, even though everyday conceptions may be barriers to disciplinary discernment. Sarah analyzed a video about the structure of matter and a representation of a measurement with a pixel detector and corresponding user interface. The results were used to give recommendations to improve the analyzed visualizations.

Irtaza Syed (2018) Development of a web-based user interface for measuring and visualising radioactivity
Applied University of Karlsruhe, Prof. H. Körner; CERN project supervisor O. Keller

Irtaza continued the software development of an intuitive and easy-to-use graphical user interface foundation for an educational platform around the Timpeix3 pixel detector. A streamlined and flexible user interaction design based on Jupyter Lab (implemented in Python) allows students to achieve a better understanding of nuclear and particle physics by performing experiments on radioactivity with a pixel detector.

Mihaly Vadai (2017) Pixel detector bias supply and control using embedded multicore processors
Queen Marry University of London, Prof. A. Alomany; CERN project supervisor O. Keller; CERN-THESIS-2017-370

Mihaly simulated, tested and verified the electronics of a low footprint and low power high voltage bias supply and current monitor for pixelated silicon sensors. The design is based on the LT3905 integrated circuit and an XMOS multi-core processor. It is intended to be used in a battery-powered, mobile pixel detector device geared for educational settings. His thesis is available here.

Ankatrin Kirchner (2017). Development and evaluation of a S'Cool LAB workshop on quadrupole ion traps. University of Freiburg, Prof. M. Schumacher

Ankatrin designed the prototype of a 3D-printable quadrupole ion trap based on existing DIY traps from the University of Mainz. She developed student worksheets in an iterative (re-) design process taking into account students' conception of electric fields and electric circuits. Her thesis (in German) is available here.

Lukas Mientus (2016). Development and evaluation of a S'Cool LAB workshop on plasma wakefield acceleration. University of Potsdam, Prof. A. Borowski

Lukas studied students' conceptions of plasma. Based on the results, he developed a teaching unit about plasma-wakefield-acceleration, a promising new acceleration technique which is currently studied at CERN in the AWAKE collaboration.

Daniela Pfeiffer (2016). Development and evaluation of a S'Cool LAB workshop on Positron-Emission-Tomography. University of Freiburg, Prof. M. Schumacher

Daniela studied students' interest in medical applications of particle physics. She developed student worksheets for the PET experiment in an iterative (re-) design process taking into account students' conception of radiation, especially in the medical context.

Magnus Reifenrath & Christopher Weller (2016) Development and evaluation of a S'Cool LAB workshop on superconductivity. University of Siegen, Prof. O. Schwarz

Magnus and Christopher developed a sequence of experimental tasks about superconductivity. In the framework of their theses, they built a magnetic track and designed different sensors to measure the conductivity of conductors, semiconductors and superconductors at different temperatures.

Lea Prüfer (2015). Development and evaluation of a S'Cool LAB workshop on muon detectors. University of Munich, Prof. S. Paul

Lea studied students' conceptions of cosmic particles. Based on the results, she developed an experimental workshop about muons using a set of scintillation detectors.


Other projects

Susanne Dührkoop & Lachlan McGinness (2018): Low-cost hands-on particle physics experiments and activities for the classroom.

Susanne and Lachlan supported the S'Cool LAB team as teachers in residence. They developed a booklet of suitable hands-on particle physics activities for the physics classroom in an iterative design process together with high-school students and teachers. They also develop 3D-printable education tools for particle physics.

Alex Brown (2015 - 2018). High school physics teachers’ motivations for hands-on visits to CERN’s S’Cool LAB. University of Geneva, Prof. A. Müller

Alex studied teacher's motivation for hands-on visits to S'Cool LAB based on previous research on field trips, online preparation, and hands-on lab work. Preliminary results of his semi-structured teacher interviews and qualitative content analysis show that teachers appear to value in particular: Links between S’Cool LAB experiments and curriculum, equipment which is not usually available in school, and opportunities for students to meet real scientists.