DUNE’s Sowjanya Gollapinni to co-direct Saturday Morning Physics

Sowjanya Gollapinni

Excerpted from Fermilab’s article Changing hands: Saturday Morning Physics directors pass the torch, published 27 January 2017. Sowjanya Gollapinni, featured in the article, is a member of the DUNE collaboration.

Over the past 37 years, local students have spent their Saturday mornings not in front of a TV watching cartoons, but in front of a blackboard, learning physics.

Since its inception in 1980 by then-Fermilab Director Leon Lederman, Saturday Morning Physics has been one of the most popular outreach initiatives at Fermilab. It has seen thousands of students pass through its 10-week-long programs, each of which regularly draws around 150 participants. During the course, students are exposed to topics from the history and practice of science to quantum mechanics to neutrino research at Fermilab…

Neither snow nor rain nor heat have ever stopped the classes of Saturday Morning Physics, whose website warns students that “class is never cancelled due to weather.” According to Fermilab physicists Roger Dixon and Erik Ramberg, who have been directors of Saturday Morning Physics for more than 20 years, class has been cancelled only once: during the government shutdown of 2013.

This year, Dixon and Ramberg will pass down their directorial duties to University of Tennessee, Knoxville, physicist Sowjanya Gollapinni and Fermilab physicist Elliott McCrory. Gollapinni is a member of the MicroBooNE (and DUNE) neutrino experiments and works on diversity initiatives at Fermilab, while McCrory, who works on Fermilab accelerators, brings with him nearly three decades of experience in training students through the Summer Internships in Science and Technology program…

For Gollapinni, the importance of the lecturers as role models can’t be understated.

“It’s important for them to see all types of role models,” she said. “As a woman myself, seeing a female role model speak matters to the extent that it makes you feel like you can do anything, because you see a person like you, who has reached higher points in their career.”

Both McCrory and Gollapinni, a member of the community of university scientists who use the Fermilab for their research, also emphasized the need to experiment with the course and try new approaches to teaching physics…