A group of learners from the South Wales Valleys have experienced the ultimate out of classroom lesson with a once in a lifetime trip to one of the world’s leading scientific research centres.
A group of 26 learners from Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus, visited the renowned CERN centre in Switzerland to learn about the work being done at the institution and to see the iconic Large Hadron Collider – the multi-billion-pound machine which simulates the moment following the ‘Big Bang’ – in action up close.
Their visit followed a trip made earlier this year by 24 physics teachers from across Wales, including Anthony Mitchell, a physics lecturer from Coleg y Cymoedd, who were selected to tour the prestigious centre in Geneva to explore some of the latest discoveries in particle physics.
Carys Arianwen Haf, a 20-year-old learner from Llantrisant, was one of the lucky individuals invited to attend the exclusive trip. Having always wanted to visit CERN, Carys, who is currently studying A-Levels in biology, chemistry and mathematics, jumped at the opportunity when the outing was offered to those studying science at Coleg y Cymoedd’s A-level Centre.
Carys said: “I was extremely excited to visit CERN. It’s not an opportunity that comes around every day and the experience was so interesting. I’m fascinated by particle physics and as I don’t study physics in college, the visit allowed me to learn new and exciting things that I would not have otherwise known. It also allowed me to attend workshops that I would not have been able to if I had gone as a member of the public.”
The trip presented learners with the rare opportunity to tour CERN’s state-of-the-art facilities, attend workshop sessions, hands on physics experiments and meet with researchers and engineers to hear about the work being done at the centre, and its impact on the science of everyday life. Aside from seeing the world-famous Large Hadron Collider up close, a highlight for the learners was a cloud chamber workshop, where they observed cosmic particles and natural radiation visible using materials and equipment, such as dry ice, which are difficult to obtain for classroom use.
The two-day trip also saw the learners visit Lake Geneva, the botanical gardens and the History of Science Museum, giving them chance to learn about a range of exciting topics while also exploring and appreciating the architecture and culture of Geneva itself.
Carys, who now hopes to study biology at university, with future ambitions to pursue a career in biological research, says that her experience at CERN has only strengthened her resolve to go into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) research.
She said: “It’s rare to see female representation in any field of science, let alone in research, and so seeing women working as physics researchers at CERN was extremely inspiring. It reminded me that it is possible for women to achieve success in the academic fields that I am hoping to get into one day myself and has motivated me to work hard and attain my ambitions.”
Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “We are committed to providing our learners with opportunities to take part in a wide range of educational experiences, which we hope will inspire them to realise the career paths that are available to them. We hope that seeing the incredible CERN research facility first hand and meeting with its experimental researchers, will influence these young people to consider careers in the sciences. Few people can say they have visited CERN and this unique trip will not only provide our learners with a memorable experience, but equip them with added skills and knowledge that will help them stand out in their future endeavours.”