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Northern Today - March 10, 2008

NIU scientists playing role in development of LHC detector

Physicists at NIU are watching with great anticipation as construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, nears completion. The project reached an important milestone recently, when the final piece of the ATLAS particle detector was lowered into the underground collision hall.

“To be involved in a project that is so massive in every sense is both uplifting and humbling at the same time,” said Physics Professor Dhiman Chakraborty, who leads a team at NIU that is contributing to the ATLAS project.

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. Experiments conducted at the lab’s LHC facility, poised to become the world’s most Npowerful particle accelerator, could help scientists unravel some of the deepest mysteries in particle physics. The U.S. branch of the collaboration, based out of the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, built and delivered several key elements of the ATLAS detector.

Of the almost 2,100 participants in the ATLAS collaboration, representing some 180 institutions from 35 countries, about 420 are U.S. physicists, engineers and graduate students.

“The task ahead still looks daunting, but it is also exciting to be able to work with so many scientists and colleagues from all over the world and to share ideas and results with them,” Chakraborty said. His ATLAS team at NIU includes research scientist Guilherme Lima and two graduate students in physics, Rob Calkins and Chad Suhr.

The last piece of ATLAS lowered into the experimental cavern is one of two elements known as the “small wheels.” The small wheels, though little in comparison to the rest of the ATLAS detector, are each about 30 feet in diameter and weigh 100 tons. The wheels are covered with sensitive detectors that will be used to identify and measure the momentum of subatomic particles called muons that are created in LHC collisions.

The entire detector system has an area equal to three football fields, consisting of 100 million independent electronic channels. As charged particles pass through a magnetic field created by superconducting magnets, this detector has the ability to accurately track them to the precision of the width of a human hair.

The NIU physicists joined ATLAS in June and are now working closely with the ATLAS team at Argonne National Laboratory on remote monitoring and calibration tasks. Argonne has made significant contributions in all stages of acquiring, selecting, storing and accessing the data from ATLAS.

Chakraborty likened the detector, in very simple terms, to a huge microscope that takes pictures of sub-nuclear interactions at high energies. Calkins and Suhr are among the scientists who are responsible for calibrating and monitoring an important part of the detector, called the tile calorimeter, to ensure that it produces high-quality data reliably and consistently. Lima is working on computer simulations of particle detectors, which help scientists determine how the detector will respond to real events of particle collisions.

“The tile calorimeter spits out data through 10,000 channels at a very high rate,” Chakraborty said. “We need to certify that that data meets strict quality requirements. Through broadband computing, the detector’s performance in Switzerland can actually be monitored in real time in the United States.

“Initially much of this work will be done at Argonne,” he added. “At a later stage, some tasks may be moved to NIU.”

Beginning this summer, Chakraborty will be on leave from NIU for 14 months in order to collaborate as a visiting scientist with the ATLAS group at the French National Laboratory for Subatomic Physics and Cosmology (LPSC) in Grenoble, France, less than a two-hour drive from CERN.

The ATLAS detector, and another similar one called CMS, which will operate simultaneously at the LHC, could help scientists find answers to some of the most troubling and outstanding questions in particle physics and cosmology, such as the origin of mass and the identity of dark matter. The ATLAS collaboration will now focus on commissioning the detector in preparation for the start-up of the LHC this summer.

“This is a critical time, so we are approaching it with a mixture of excitement and nervousness,” Chakraborty said.

“So far there’s been nothing like the LHC in terms of scale when you consider the cost, state-of-the-art facilities, number of scientists and engineers involved, the time it takes to do these experiments, and the sheer size, muscle, complexity and speed of the gigantic yet super-sensitive apparatus. From conception to publication of all results through many hundreds of articles in scientific journals will take three to four decades,” he added.

Over the past two decades, the High-Energy Physics Group at NIU has established a strong track record of world-class research in experimental particle physics. Members of the group made major contributions to the DZero project at Fermilab’s Tevatron collider and to research and development for future facilities under consideration, such as the International Linear Collider.

“Our participation in the ATLAS project at the LHC is a natural continuation of that tradition and a significant step toward further strengthening of our research program,” Chakraborty said.

For more information, visit

Children’s Literature Conference focuses
on what boys like to read, books for boys

Teachers and librarians already know that boys and girls approach books and reading in vastly different ways.

NIU’s 28th annual Children’s Literature Conference, scheduled for March 14 and 15, will help them better understand what to do about it.

Seven prominent speakers, including the author of the best-selling “Grossology” series, will address the 400 teachers, school librarians and public librarians expected to attend “Male Call: A Workshop Connecting Boys and Books.” NIU’s College of Education sponsors the conference.

“Grossology” author Sylvia Carol Branzei-Velasquez is joined by authors and illustrators Joseph Bruchac, Robert Burleigh, Mark Crilley, Kathleen Duey, Michael Sullivan and David Wiesner on the weekend’s schedule.

“Boys are a very hard audience to reach. They tend not to be readers,” said Marti Jernberg, coordinator for non-credit external programs in the NIU College of Education. “We wanted to focus on the kinds of things boys like, and to get teachers and librarians to think about how they can attract boys to reading. The better readers they are the better their test scores.”

“Third grade boys have a weird sense of humor – a humor that girls can’t appreciate, particularly – but every mother who has a boy knows exactly what this kind of humor is. We know from anecdotal experience that boys just love gross things, whether it’s a history of bathrooms or a book about dinosaur poop,” said Barbara Fiehn, chair of the conference and an instructor in NIU’s Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

“Because we’re primarily women, and I hate to stereotype us, but gee, we’re just not particularly interested in gross stuff,” Fiehn added. “And if we’re not aware that’s what boys want to read about, then we don’t buy it and so it’s not available. Then, the boys say, ‘Eh, this library doesn’t have anything worth reading.’ ”

Such an outcome concerns Fiehn, who worked several years as a school media specialist in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.

“If we don’t consciously pay attention to what boys want to read or make that available to them,” she said, “we’re doing a disservice to boys.”

The distinctions are well-defined.

Most girls prefer fiction and read for pure pleasure, Fiehn said. Most boys, however, gravitate toward non-fiction and read to obtain information they can apply directly to their lives.

“They read to find out more factual information about the things they’re interested in,” she said. “If they’re interested in sports, they tend to read books about sports heroes or how to improve their abilities. If they’re interested in animals, they’ll read about animals. More boys than girls get really hung up on dinosaurs, and they know incredibly in-depth things about dinosaurs.”

Cognitive differences along the gender lines also play a role in bridging the gap, she said.

“We know that, from a maturity level, most boys are not ready to read at kindergarten. There seems to be a year-and-a-half lag between boys and girls at the entry level to school,” Fiehn said. “We need to make sure we have books to engage these boys as early as possible, which means a lot of picture books that are about things that boys like.”

Speakers were chosen specifically for their contributions to books that boys like.

David Wiesner, who has illustrated more than 20 books for young readers, has created some books with no words at all. Three of his works have won the prestigious Caldecott Medal.

Mark Crilley writes and illustrates graphic novels – a modern take on comic books – that feature his character Akiko. The first in the series, “Akiko on the Planet Smoo,” was published in 2000. The ninth, “Akiko: Pieces of Gax,” was published in 2006.

Sylvia Carol Branzei-Velasquez’s non-fiction “Grossology” books include “Grossology Begins at Home,” “Hands On Grossology” and “Grossology and You.” Burleigh’s non-fiction books include “Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth” and “Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindberg.”

Kathleen Duey has written more than 70 books of historical fiction, fantasy, adventure and survival tales. Joseph Bruchac draws on the hometown – the Adirondack Mountain foothills town of Greenfield Center, N.Y. – and his Abenaki ancestry.

Michael Sullivan, named New Hampshire Librarian of the Year in 1998, has written books for educators. Titles include “Fundamentals of Children’s Services” and “Connecting Boys with Books: What Librarians Can Do.”

“We introduce teachers and librarians to well-known authors, give them a chance to meet them and to learn how they go about their craft and what kinds of things they think about when they’re doing it,” Jernberg said. “We hope teachers leave with ideas on how to use literature in their classrooms and librarians leave with ideas on how to connect with teachers and the curriculum.”

For more information, call (815) 753-3005, e-mail or visit

Employment fairs draw big numbers

Attendance at two employment fairs that followed on the heels of the Feb. 14 shootings drew large crowds of both students and potential employers.

The Feb. 27 Internship Fair attracted 766 students (up slightly from 750 last year) and 91 employers (down slightly from the 95 of last year). The Educators Fair drew 1,049 students (down from 1,152 in 2007) and 191 employers (the largest turnout since 2001).

“I think this speaks very highly of our students and their tremendous resiliency,” says Cindy Henderson, executive director of the NIU Career Services.

Henderson says attendees at the Internship Fair, held just two days after the resumption of classes, were a bit more tentative than in years past. However, she says, they quickly got into the swing of things with a nudge. Henderson and a number of counselors from Career Services paid special attention, looking for students hanging on the fringes of the event, and took care to introduce them to employers they were interested in meeting.

As for the employers themselves, each was given a letter offering tips on interacting with students. It suggested that they not shy away from discussions of the tragedy, but also be mindful that some students might be sensitive. They asked that employers allow students a bit of extra time to compose answers to questions and made them aware of resources at the fair to help them assist any student who might become emotional.

“The employers were terrific in the way the interacted with the students,” says Henderson, who points out that many of the recruiters at the fair were also NIU alumni who were particularly willing to offer students some support.

Employers she spoke to reported that the vast majority of students handled themselves well, and gave them the same high marks as recruiters from past fairs.

Follow-up interviews with employers found that more than 90 percent considered the fair a good way to find future employees, and 85 percent said they planned to hire anywhere from 1 to 7 employees they met at the event.

The Educators Fair, which was held Feb. 25, was also a big success, drawing just a few less students than last year. Most of those students, Henderson says, were in the midst of student-teaching and not on campus Feb. 14.

Career Services will hold its annual Spring Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 19. Despite the having to reschedule the event from the original date of Feb. 20, only 20 potential employers had to drop out.

Water line project to begin in April

While winter still has campus in its icy grip, plans are already being finalized for the installation of chilled water lines this spring and summer.

Current plans call for work on that project to begin as soon as the ground thaws – probably in early April, says Jeff Daurer, director of capital budgeting and planning. The project will complete the installation of a chilled water piping system around the East Campus. That network of pipes ultimately will allow the university to replace aging chiller equipment in that area and begin cooling buildings with chilled water, which is more efficient and environmentally friendly.

The project will create some disruptions for some on campus, beginning with those who park in Lot 10 on the east side of Faraday Hall. That lot will be closed starting April 1 and will be used as a staging area for construction equipment and supplies. The lot will be reconstructed and reopened in the fall.

Digging will begin just north of the parking lot, with pipe being laid along a path that runs west from Castle Drive to Normal Road along the north side of Faraday Hall, then between Faraday West and Davis Hall. A stub also will be run off of that line, running south along the east side of Faraday, under Watson Creek and across Lincoln Terrace to Montgomery Hall. All of that work is expected to be completed by the end of final exams May 15.

The end of the academic year also will mark the start of the summer construction season and will bring with it the closure of Normal Road from Davis Hall to Lucinda. In preparation for that work, Lot 8, on the west side of Davis Hall, will be closed starting May 1 and will not reopen until classes resume in late August.

Normal Road will remain closed throughout the summer as contractors dig up the street and install the chilled water lines. Plans call for the work to proceed in 100-foot increments, with each segment to be filled in with gravel as digging on the next segment begins. Areas not under construction will be open to foot traffic throughout the project, and at least one handicapped accessible crossing will always be maintained.

The Normal Road work will continue throughout the summer, but plans call for the street to be repaved and reopened by the time students return to campus in August.

The next leg of the project calls for the installation of pipes around Adams Hall, then under Lucinda and into the area around the Campus Life Building with work continuing into the fall.

“Obviously, this project is going to cause some major disruptions on campus, but it could have been worse,” says Daurer, explaining that plans originally had called for crews to attack Normal Road from the north and the south, and to also dig in the area around campus life this summer. Ultimately it was decided that such an approach would create too many traffic problems.

Also, construction on the chilled water plant, which originally was scheduled to begin this spring, is temporarily delayed while the Capital Development Board completes its review of the plans.

For a map of the project, and to find updates on progress once the work begins, consult


Winifred Creamer, a Presidential Research Professor in anthropology, and her husband, Jonathan Haas of the Field Museum in Chicago, were featured recently in an 8-minute segment of “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio.

The Feb. 11 story discussed the researchers’ theory that a change in climate might have sparked the rise of a sophisticated civilization 5,000 years ago in Peru. NPR audio, text and a related photo gallery can be found online at

NPR’s Christopher Joyce interviewed Creamer and Haas in early July while they were in Peru with students conducting research and excavations.

University Archives staff seeks
documentation of Feb. 14 incident

NIU’s Regional History Center/University Archives has the mission of preserving and documenting the history of the university, including the tragic Feb. 14 event.

Although staff members already have been working with various departments on campus, they need to expand their outreach by asking faculty, staff, students and the larger university community to share their items and to spread the word.

No item is too small to be included in the archives, including e-mails, correspondence, poems, official documents, class projects, photographs and videotape.

For more information, or to share, contact the Regional History Center/University Archives in Room 400 of Founders Memorial Library or call (815) 753-1779 during regular office hours.

NIU Central Stores to host annual office supply expo

NIU Central Stores and Office Max Office Products will host the ninth annual Office Supply Expo from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center.

The expo will feature manufacturers of quality office supplies showing their product lines and new product offerings.

Those who have not received personal e-mail invitations should e-mail matmgmt in GroupWise or call (815) 753-0406 to be added to the invitation list.

Christian prayer lunch scheduled for March 18

The Christian Faculty and Staff Prayer Luncheon is scheduled for noon Tuesday, March 18, in the East Room of the Blackhawk Cafeteria.

Participants may bring a lunch or purchase one there. All are welcome.

Women’s Resource Center to explore ‘Sex and the City’

Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have designer clothes, a great apartment and a job that provides you with all of the luxuries of life?

Join the Women’s Resource Center from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, to talk about the myths and the realities of the popular HBO hit “Sex and the City” during a discussion of balancing careers, relationships and sexuality.

The event, held at the women’s Resource Center on Normal Road, is co-sponsored by the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

DeKalb’s Nehring Gallery to host
‘Polish Connection’ exhibition

The Nehring Gallery in downtown DeKalb will host “The Polish Connection,” an exhibition of work by the NIU art students and faculty who participated in a Study Abroad Program in Poland last spring. The exhibition is on display from March 20 through May 3, with the opening reception scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 20.

Before traveling to Poland, students studied Polish language, culture, history and art at NIU. The works created by the students after traveling throughout Poland suggest the historical, social and cultural life of the Polish community.

The exhibition includes examples of Polish folk art with such work as Pysanky eggs and traditional wooden birds as well as works by students addressing contemporary issues such as the desecration of Jewish cemeteries.

A drawing will be held for a Pysanky egg decorated by artist Billie Giese. Pysanky are a part of a rich history of tradition in Polish culture, as well as all over Eastern Europe. In Poland, they historically were an integral part of the cultural heritage and ritualistic practices.

Pysanky are a special type of decorative egg decorated with batik; that is, beeswax is used to trace designs on eggs that then are dyed in different colors according to the intention of the designer. Designs on eggs may be painted, scratched or dyed without design, but only Pysanky eggs are decorated using the beeswax-and-dye method. Tickets for the drawing are $1 each or 6 for $5. All proceeds will benefit the Nehring Gallery.

“The Polish Connection” is open and free to the public during regular gallery hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday or by appointment. Nehring Gallery is located on the second floor of the Nehring Center for Culture and Tourism in the historic First National Bank building. The gallery is cooperatively operated by the DeKalb Park District and the NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts Division of Outreach. An entrance accessible to all is available and located at the 111 S. Second Street entrance.

Call (815) 758-6363 or visit for more information.

Field Museum’s artist-in-residence
to exhibit ‘Nature Studies’ at NIU

NIU’s Art Museum will host “Peggy Macnamara: Nature Studies” from March 25 through May 10 in the North Gallery.

The exhibition features studies, sketches and large-scale watercolor paintings of flora and fauna depicted by The Field Museum of Natural History’s artist-in-residence and is part of a suite of nature-themed exhibitions at the NIU Art Museum.

The public is invited to a reception with the artist from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27. From 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 5, Macnamara will present an artist’s talk in Altgeld 315.

From 2 to 4 p.m. that same day, she will conduct a drawing workshop in the art museum corridor using the taxidermy birds and animals in the hallcase exhibit “Specimens and Studies” as models. Pre-register for this free workshop for ages 16 and older by calling (815) 753-7867. Space is limited.

“Peggy Macnamara: Nature Studies” will contain large watercolors from her most recent “Migration and Nest” series, which she has undertaken with two Field Museum scientists as well as past works based on museum collections. Several of her smaller drawings and field studies also will be included in this solo exhibition.

Macnamara is currently adjunct professor at the School of the Art Institute (of Chicago) as well as an associate of the Zoology Department at the Field Museum, where several of her large-scale watercolors are on permanent display.

The NIU Art Museum is located on the first floor, west end, of Altgeld Hall. The galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours. Exhibitions are free; donations are appreciated. Exhibitions of the NIU Art Museum are funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the Friends of the NIU Art Museum, and the Arts Fund 21.

For more information, call (815) 753-1936 or visit

Artist ‘unpacks’ 21st century’s
complex relationship to nature

NIU’s Art Museum will host “Gabriel Bizen Akagawa: Unpacked / Offset” from March 25 through May 10 as part of a suite of nature-themed exhibitions. A public reception for the artist is scheduled from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27.

Throughout the course of the exhibition, Akagawa is encouraging and seeking further community participation such as contributing a “tree story,” joining him on a nature walk and contributing to a dialogue by contacting him directly at Anyone can contribute to the project in this way. More information about these and other related projects is available at

The “Unpacked / Offset” exhibition is a collaborative installation project in which area students, community artists and visiting artist/curator Akagawa recreate “nature” within reclaimed art shipping crates and contribute additional artwork commenting on environmental concerns, such as offsetting carbon emissions. A publication with essay by Audrey Peiper is in production.

Akagawa has exhibited at such Chicago venues as the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, Walsh Gallery, Gallery 400, Gene Siskel Film Center, The Beverly Arts Center and Berlin’s Galerie Lifebomb. He recently was awarded a yearlong residency at the Alternator Gallery for Contemporary Art in Canada, in which he conducted environment-based, community-collaborative projects.

The NIU Art Museum is located on the first floor, west end, of Altgeld Hall. The galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours. Exhibitions are free; donations are appreciated. Exhibitions of the NIU Art Museum are funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, the Friends of the NIU Art Museum, and the Arts Fund 21.

For more information, call (815) 753-1936 or visit

Women invited to luncheon

NIU women faculty, staff and students are invited to a networking luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, March 28, in the Chandelier Room of Adams Hall. The presentation begins at 12:05 p.m.

Jeanette Rossetti, assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, part of the College of Health and Human Sciences, will speak.

“Factors that Make Outstanding Professors Successful in Teaching” will highlight findings from Rossetti’s dissertation in which she conducted an interpretive analysis of the educational philosophy and goal statements of 35 professors who received NIU’s prestigious Presidential Teaching Professor award. The findings of the study and the narratives of the Presidential Teaching Professors give meaning to successful and inspirational teaching.

A Caesar salad lunch will be served at the cost of $9 per person. Please reserve before Tuesday, March 18. To make a reservation, call (815) 753-0320.

Faculty needed this fall to teach UNIV 101/201

Interested in helping first-year students learn how to succeed at NIU? Become a UNIV 101/201 instructor for fall 2008.

UNIV 101 is a one-credit, 12-week course focused on helping freshmen develop the essential academic and social skills needed to make an enjoyable and successful transition to NIU. UNIV 201 is a similar course designed specifically for transfer students.

In fall 2007, NIU offered 91 sections of UNIV 101/201; more than 1,800 first-year NIU students enrolled. As a UNIV 101/201 instructor, you can impact the experiences of these new students and provide them with resources to help them adjust to life at NIU.

Instructors must be a current or retired member of the NIU faculty, staff, or administration, hold a master’s degree and have prior teaching experience. Candidates who do not meet the last two criteria might be paired with teaching coaches.

UNIV 101/201 instructors typically receive a stipend of $1,000 for teaching an individual section or $500 for co-instructing. Once hired, all instructors are required to attend training workshops and department meetings and participate in course feedback through e-mail correspondence and surveys.

An overview session is scheduled for 3 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in the Illinois Room of the Holmes Student Center to share more information about teaching these courses. Please RSVP to

More information and application materials are available online. Contact First-Year Connections at

LA&S External Programming
announces summer camp lineup

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences External Programming announces its academic summer camp lineup.

It will include Speech Camp, Creative Writing Camp, Sci-Camp Explorations Jr., Sci-Camp Explorations Sr., Film Camp and the Muggle Academy.

Each of the five-day residential camps for pre-collegiate students will be held on the NIU DeKalb campus, with the exception of Sci-Camp Explorations Jr., which will take place at the Lorado Taft Field Campus.

The camps for middle and high school students are designed to foster friendships and keep young minds active over the summer. NIU has a rich history of offering excellent Academic Summer Camps at very competitive prices.

For more information, call (815) 753-5200, e-mail or visit

Bookstore to close for inventory

University Bookstore will close for inventory from Monday, March 10, through Wednesday, March 12. Regular store hours resume Thursday, March 13.

Kishwaukee Concert Band to play
March 16 concert of Irish songs

The Greater Kishwaukee Area Concert Band will present “Echoes of Erin” at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 16, in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall. 

The concert is sponsored by Gordon and Virginia Rasmussen. The all-volunteer band will play many Irish songs under the direction of John Hansen. The concert is free, and the building is accessible to all.

Students with disabilities can apply
for Izzo-Inge Family Award scholarship

NIU is proud to offer the Izzo-Inge Family Award for Students with Disabilities for the 2008-2009 academic year. This scholarship was made possible by a generous gift from Charmaine Izzo-Inge and David Inge. 

The scholarship is available to students who will be full-time (minimum 12 hours a semester), degree-seeking juniors or seniors at NIU.

Candidates must possess a grade point average of at least 2.5/4.0 and demonstrate a significant disability that affects the cognitive process. Qualified disabilities include learning disability, traumatic brain injury, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), deafness or hard of hearing, visual impairment or other disabilities that affect the cognitive process.

Preference will be given to students who exhibit financial need (as determined by the Student Financial Aid office) and plan to teach special education. Students who do not exhibit financial need nor plan to teach special education are still encouraged to apply.

The deadline for applications is Tuesday, April 1. For an application and/or more information, please contact the Office of the Dean, College of Health and Human Sciences, Wirtz Hall 227 or call (815) 753-1877 or TTY (815) 753-3000.