Out & About: Fermilab

On March 5, students and faculty from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) embarked on a day-long field trip to world-famous particle physics laboratory Fermilab in nearby Batavia, IL. The trip was organized by Elizabeth Freeland (who works at SAIC and collaborates with physicists at Fermilab), and I decided to tag along.

Upon entering the lab’s dramatic main building, we were treated to a lecture on string theory and black holes, followed by a trip to the 15th floor viewing deck, where physicists in bright yellow t-shirts answered all the physics-related questions we could come up with. After that, docents led visitors on an in-depth tour of the lab’s famous Tevatron, currently the highest-energy particle accelerator in the world. In addition to being quite interesting, the tour of the facilities was surprisingly visual. The main building and surrounding grounds were punctuated with outdoor sculptures and a large art gallery, but I was most interested in the lab's own brightly-patterned floors and wires, multicolored/ multitextured pipes, and gigantic metal structures that would have seemed fantastically sci-fi except that there was no fiction to this science.

The docents and scientists on hand were happy to make their work accessible and interesting to a broad spectrum of visitors, as they do several times a year when the lab opens its doors to the public with tours and events. If you go when it’s warmer you might even catch sight of bison wandering the grounds! For more information on Fermilab’s public programs, visit their education site.
-Christa Donner

[photo details of Fermilab's Wilson Hall and of one of its many sculptures ]


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