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People: Middle School Project Puts LCLS in the Spotlight

From left: Micaela David and Jocelyn Gomez with their LCLS model. (Photo courtesy Micaela David.)

Eighth-graders Micaela David and Jocelyn Gomez of the Gifted and Talented Program at Washington Middle School in Salinas, California, recently illuminated the inner workings of the Linac Coherent Light Source for their classmates.

An assignment requiring research into new technologies prompted their choice of the LCLS. According to Micaela, when she left school the day of the assignment she was still at a loss for a topic, but then she remembered an ABC7 News segment on the LCLS, and knew she'd found it.

"I'd never heard of a laboratory underground or an X-ray laser," Micaela said. "It sounded like something from a movie." She shared her idea with her assignment partner and friend Jocelyn, who agreed that the LCLS fit the bill.

Their excitement grew as they delved deeper into their research and discovered mention of "hollow atoms." The girls were especially encouraged by the discovery that two of the first teams to conduct experiments at the LCLS were led by women: Linda Young from Argonne National Laboratory and Nora Berrah of Western Michigan University.

A closeup of the LCLS model. (Photo courtesy Micaela David.)

"We were excited to see women scientists in the hollow molecule photos," Micaela said.

They next contacted SLAC Outreach Manager Pat Kreitz, who provided them with more information and enough photos that they could construct one of their project requirements: a three-dimensional model of the LCLS. They crafted their mini-LCLS from "paper towel rolls, tooth paste box sponges, beads and paint." A three-page report and a diagram of the LCLS completed the assignment. Their work impressed their teacher, Kathey Felt.

"They showed a real understanding of the processes and uses of the LCLS, and how the whole thing works," Felt said. "It was really nicely done."

Micaela admitted to being pretty happy about the "A" she and Jocelyn received on the project, and said Jocelyn was also "very proud." Along with the grade, their research gave both young science enthusiasts a glimpse into a possible future. The prospect of one day conducting research at the LCLS was "awesome," according to Micaela.

"Someday I'd like to do that," said Jocelyn, who was a little less exuberant and a little more matter-of-fact.

Felt said she would not be surprised to see the girls at the LCLS as researchers. "They both have pretty high standards and goals for themselves," she said. "It's really nice to see."

óLori Ann White
SLAC Today, November 17, 2010