Date Published:
Monday 03 April 2023

The physics department at JPA is currently running towards the end of a very long project working with some of our year 12 students, Orbyts, Northumbria Univeristy and the IoP. Orbyts is a partnership between scientists and schools, empowering school students to conduct their own original science research projects, while providing them with relatable science role models who dispel harmful stereotypes about who can be a scientist. This is the second time we have run this project, with the results from the last project being published and now being used by the MET office to predict global weather patterns.


 Every research project is created bespoke for each school. Consequently, our project lead is Jordan Talbot (a Phd student within the Solar and Space Physics research ground at Northumbria).


​The project began with Jordan leading the research, but transition of ownership of the science to the school students happened by the middle of the project, ensuring that they chose the direction that the science took and the avenues that they wished to explore. This sense of agency shifts student perceptions from science as a body of inherited knowledge to something that our next generation create and own themselves. Each year, our Orbyts programme closes with a conference, at which all of our partner schools present their discoveries. A brief outline of the project is included below:


Particle Acceleration in the Fermi-Ulam Model 

 Across the universe, particles are accelerated through their interactions with shock waves. These shocks form in a wide range of environments, from small scales in the laboratory, medium scales in the Earth’s atmosphere, to massive scales in the medium between galaxies, near black holes and during the formation of stars. This particle acceleration can be modelled using a system like that of a ball bouncing between two moving walls. This is called the Fermi-Ulam model.  

In this project, the students will learn what shocks are, how they form and how they can accelerate particles. They will also gain an introduction into programming / coding in the Python language using Google Colab. They will use this code to model the acceleration of particles due to these shocks. The students will then be able to adapt the base code to model various environments to study the acceleration of particles across different scales.