Here’s how a Purdue Calumet scientist helped find the Higgs-Boson, or the “God particle.” Remember, it was big news when discovered last year!
Indeed, the Nobel Prize went to Peter Higgs of the United Kingdom and Francopis Englert of Belgium during 2013. They were two of six physicists who had postulated nearly 50 years ago that this particle existed.
Ironically, this award didn't go to the thousands of scientists who have been searching for the particle since 2010. It was eventually discovered at the world’s largest laboratory in Switzerland called CERN. One of these scientists is Neeti Parashar of Purdue University Calumet.
She is a significant player among two teams of physicists worldwide who have extended the boundaries of knowledge that could lead to unimaginable discoveries in the future. In fact, she was a group leader in this historic search for the elusive particle.
Parashar has been at Purdue Cal since 2005, setting up a high energy physics program and securing federal funding of at least $1 million for her research.
I visited with Parashar about her journey of discovery in which she guided her team to help verify the particle.
Neeti was not only leading one of the many teams searching for the particle. She also was involved in likely the most critical phase of developing the pixel detector technology that was a key to its discovery.
She was invited to join the huge CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment at CERN in 2004 when she was at Louisiana Tech. From there she was commuting to and from the Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Batavia. When she joined Purdue Cal, she continued her research at Fermilab and CERN, putting Purdue Cal on the world map of discoveries.
Her odyssey began when she got her doctorate at the University of Delhi in high energy physics. After graduation, she was at Oxford, and then accepted a fellowship in Italy. There she looked out her window every day at the Leaning Tower of Pisa that Galileo made famous by his experiments.
Legend has it that he dropped objects from the tower and came up with the fundamental concept of free-fall motion. Then in 1971, Apollo astronauts re-performed Galileo’s experiments on the moon and proved the “father of physics” right!
At Purdue Cal, Parashar led her team that contributed to the construction of the pixel detector, developing its software geometry and validating the data. This smaller device is used in a massive underground chamber five stories deep at CERN.
This global effort consists of 6,000 physicists who developed the large detector that measured the data and verified the existence of the “God particle.”
Northwest Indiana can take pride that one of our innovative scientists was involved in the discovery of this most fundamental particle of science.
“There was an abundance of red paint.”
So explained Ken Rapier how history was made by the original Tuskegee Airmen. He’s a pilot and president of the Chicago “DODO” Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
By now, most know that nearly 1,000 black pilots challenged the status quo by their courage and discipline in protecting American B-17s. As bomber escorts, they flew the P-51 planes with red tails made famous in the movie “Red Tails.”
While the movie acknowledged this reality, it never explained how it happened. So I asked Ken, the first non-Original Tuskegee Airman elected president of the historic “DODO” Chapter.
Fact is, the black pilots got hand-me-down planes. Members of the 332nd Fighter Group wanted to cover old markings to identify their aircraft. So Col. Benjamin O. Davis ordered the tail section painted red. Nobody wanted red paint. But he did.
Why? Ken, whose cousin Gordon Rapier was a wingman for Col. Davis, suggested the commander saw this as an opportunity. Here was a way to make a big statement about these pilots.
In fact, in their first battle, the Germans lost 12 planes! “The enemy realized their decoys couldn't lure these escorts away from their bombers,” he said. Indeed, these World War II pilots had an exemplary record.
Yet no Tuskegee airman was named an ace. Why? “Col. Davis reminded them repeatedly to stay with their aircraft.” In fact, Ken told me German pilots learned before American bomber pilots that the P-51’s were flown by African-Americans.
The significance? The harsh myth at the time was that only white people could fly. So why I am telling you this story?
Simply, the Chicago “DODO” Chapter made a commitment to honor the legacy of the original Tuskegee Airmen with a focus on youths. This is exemplified by their innovative programs to encourage youth to fly and pursue lifelong learning.
The chapter launched a Young Eagles program back in 1994 to provide free flights for young people. These flights are now offered at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. Since 1994, more than 14,000 have participated, said Ken, who serves as chief pilot. Add a robust scholarship program underway since 2004.
Thanks to the Chicago “DODO” Chapter, the legacy of the original Tuskegee Airmen in fighting discrimination will long endure. And so will the iconic tale of the “Red Tails.”
Several years ago, Ken and his partner were flying their Cherokee aircraft with red tails into Gary.
At the same time, seven F-16’s were about to take off for the Gary Air Show. These were the famous Thunderbirds. The Gary air traffic controller asked “Lead Thunderbird” if the “Tuskegee Flight” should go around. The answer came back: “Thunderbirds will wait for Tuskegees.”
Wow! All honor to this co-recipient of the Chanute Prize for encouraging young people to reach for new horizons.
In this time of competition for alternate materials for the next generation of automobiles, I ponder if Northwest Indiana is engaged in a great global drama called “Car Wars.”
So I met with Gregory Ludkovsky, the head of global research and development for ArcelorMittal. He shares his time between his offices in Europe and the Global R&D Center in East Chicago.
He talked about how well ArcelorMittal is positioned to face the challenges from manufacturers of aluminum and other products wanting to replace steel in automobiles.
Yes, there is progress! Think of Volkswagen, the first company that used aluminum in its Audi brand. It announced in Europe it no longer was pursuing alternative solutions because it believes steel can meet its ecological and weight requirements.
Consider ArcelorMittal’s “S in motion” project, which provides a “catalog of solutions” that has been embraced by automakers globally. This reduces the weight of a “body in white” by 25 percent. This makes it possible for auto makers to meet all North American and European current and future fuel efficiency targets without resorting to alternative materials.
It is clear that without the ArcelorMittal team of 1,350 scientists working in 11 R&D centers in Europe and the U.S., steel-producing regions like ours would be at much greater risk.
When I came back to the region in 1986, there were a number of steel producers along our lakeshore. Now there’s ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel. Thanks to their investment in new technology, we are producing about as much steel, but with fewer people.
Yes, it is important to recognize that steel producers locally and globally are fighting for steel. But it is also important to reflect on how valuable it is to have a global advocate for our industry who also is a member of the Society of Innovators.
One of the most amazing things Ludkovsky said: “Based upon my 40 plus years in the steel industry, I am convinced there is no end in sight to the progress that can be made.”
Over this period, the strength of steel has increased 400 percent, he said, and we are doing “unimaginable things” not thought possible 30 years ago in steel. “ArcelorMittal has a lot to do with making this possible.”
Today, he stressed the importance of ArcelorMittal being recognized as a provider of engineering solutions with a scientific network that is engaged in providing these solutions to industry worldwide.
Then I asked what keeps him awake nights! Surprisingly, he told me it is searching for ways to “unlock the secrets of human creativity.” Clearly, this is a message for all of us dedicated to making Northwest Indiana globally competitive.
During 2014, let us recommit ourselves to deploying our own creative solutions to push our organizations forward.
As the national economy turns the corner, and employment levels inch upward, Elevate Ventures is seeking “innovation-driven companies” to stimulate equity investment and jobs in Northwest Indiana.
Typically, these companies create products here, sell them outside of Indiana, and drive economic value back to the state. They include new ideas from prospective manufacturers, health technology companies and IT companies wanting to expand their services on the Internet.
Confirmed by a new study by the Kauffman Foundation, Elevate Ventures is targeting high growth potential companies statewide because they tend to operate nationally or even globally and create high value jobs with salaries upwards of $50,000.
For those of you who have been following this column, you know I have written about Elevate Ventures. Fact is, this Indianapolis-based venture development organization launched by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. has been here since 2012.
What’s new is that Kelly Schwedland is one of two new “Entrepreneurs-in-Residence” here in Northwest Indiana. Since October, he has been working almost full-time in the region. He’s recently joined by Karen Goldner, who also serves as an “entrepreneur-in-residence.”
I caught up with Kelly to discuss Elevate Ventures and its emphasis on high growth potential companies. He had just returned from South Bend, where he had led a “Start Up Weekend” to generate and validate new business ideas. Plans call for this initiative to be rescheduled in Northwest Indiana during 2014.
Here’s what Kelly told me. If early stage companies from the region can validate their ideas with prospective clients, these companies are eligible for equity funding up from $50,000 to $500,000. Moreover, so-called second stage companies, between $750,000 to $25 million in sales, are eligible for a mentoring program called “economic gardening.”
In fact, a total 18 companies from the region have participated in mentoring supplied by experts from the Edward A. Lowe Foundation. As a result, this has increased revenue by $18 million in economic activity. All told, programs have generated more than $35 million in economic benefit to the region so far.
Moreover, Just Food Blends in Chesterton, founded by Society of Innovators Fellow Julie Bombacino, is scheduled for a significant co-investment from Elevate Ventures when she launches her new product in January. She’s the first to qualify for an investment from Elevate Ventures in Northwest Indiana.
Thanks to support from NIPSCO, Elevate Ventures offers these services to help our entrepreneurs. Don Babcock, NIPSCO's director of economic development, said, “Elevate Ventures can launch a new generation of businesses that will build on a legacy of innovation and help restore our economy.”
“Northwest Indiana has talented people with great ideas,” Kelly said. “I want to help develop an ecosystem of high growth companies to push the region forward.”
In the face of recent tragic suicides of children from New York to Nevada, at least one educator is urging social innovation to transform current approaches to anti-bullying strategies.
For starters, a new Indiana law requires schools to form safety committees and take other measures to protect children. For the first time, HEA 1423 addresses cyber threats even in cases which occur outside of school. This legislation called for starting these initiatives by mid-October.
To learn an expert’s views, I talked with Denise C. Koebcke, a Valparaiso Community Schools educator, student leadership consultant and Society of Innovators member. She and colleague Tammy Hofer launched what was initially an anti-bullying initiative nearly a dozen years ago.
Her program, Team LEAD, has been transformed into an amazing system involving nearly 10 percent of Valparaiso High School students engaged in a mentoring program for middle school and elementary students. All sixth- and seventh-graders at Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin schools are mentored by a team of nearly 200 trained VHS students, added Valparaiso School Board member Paul Knauff.
Today, this has evolved into a nationally acclaimed system that goes beyond bullying by empowering leadership, building resilience and providing connections among students. In fact, this initiative is described as an “exemplary intervention” in a new book published this month called the “Youth Voice Project” by Stan Davis and Charisse Nixon.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Team LEAD is by involving older students in mentoring other students, it calls youths to a “higher purpose.” Hence, it promotes a “growth mindset” that encourages creativity and risk-taking, as opposed to the “fixed mindset” promoted by labeling youth victims or bullies.
Here are three key points Denise shared:
- The emphasis on labeling and defining bullies and “bullying” has been shown to be counter-productive in building resilience and creating safer climates for kids. Labeling a child a victim or bully can stunt emotional growth.
- Safer climates and pro-social behaviors among kids cannot be created with any packaged anti-bullying curriculum. It’s not about programs, she said; it’s about building relationships with and among kids through a system of student empowerment and authentic opportunities for service.
- There are no evil super-predator “bullies” roaming the hallways; they are children whom she describes as “navigating normal developmental issues.” The key is to allow students to learn pro-social behaviors without being slapped with the label of “bully” or “victim.” Hurtful behaviors are not ignored, avoiding labels allows us to respond logically rather than react emotionally.
In today’s digital world, the stakes are higher. Denise explained: “Teaching kids pro-social skills creates a more civilized climate both online and in person; altruistic kids are less likely to hurt others.”
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