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Physics Inside Out

Middle school students at Purdue

Physics Inside Out (PIO) is a five-day on-campus summer program open to incoming grade 7 and 8 students for the fall 2022 academic year. Going beyond typical classroom curricula, Physics Inside Out engages students with applications and innovations in various areas of physics, related to fundamental principles and current scientific research. Students will learn about and conduct experiments, drawing from the areas of mechanics, biophysics, light and optics, heat and energy, electricity and magnetism, astrophysics and more.

One of the goals of Physics Inside Out is introducing students to the tools of research and state of the art experimental procedures. For example, below, Xuhui Zhou from Professor Pyrak-Nolte's research group is assisting students in a microfluidics experiment in which they are spin coating an aluminum plate, upon which they will place a drop of water and then apply a voltage. Students analyze their results to learn more about how tiny amounts of fluids can be manipulated with electrostatic charge.


Students doing a microfluidics experiment Student measuring contact angles on a computer

In Physics Inside Out, students learn by doing and creating. Each morning and afternoon session includes a short tech talk, an orientation into a research-based or general interest topic in the amazing world of physics. Below, a student is fabricating an electric motor, and then photographed his motor in infrared to observe areas of greatest transmission of heat.

Student fabricating an electric motor Motor photographed in infrared light

Common topics in Physics Inside Out are light and heat. In the images below, Professor Tongcang Li (top) works with a student to set up her experiment using a laser to measure angles of reflection, refraction, and total internal reflection. Professor Rudro Biswas (bottom photo) guides a student in making a thermometer that functions based on the expansion of air.

Student with experiment Student making a thermometer

Physics Inside Out students also learn about the personal side of science from the lives of real scientists. Presenting faculty and graduate student staff offer their accounts by telling their story; how they became interested in science, factors leading to their inspiration, and the pathways by which they are seeking their careers.

Physics Inside Out is held on the campus of Purdue and offers students a glimpse into college surroundings and campus life. Students have the opportunity to tour facilities like the France Cordova Recreational Center and are provided lunches in campus dining courts. They may also tour research facilities like the Birck Nanotechnology Center, Bindley Bioscience Center, the PRIME Lab particle accelerator, or Purdue's own PUR1 nuclear reactor.



9:15 AM - 9:30 AM
Orientation, agenda for the day, Q and A.

9:30 AM - 11:45 AM
Intro to the morning topic, background, techniques and tools, lab/research activity, question survey.

Lunch Break

11:45 AM - 12:45 PM
Walk across campus to eat lunch at a Purdue dining court.


1:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Intro to the afternoon topic, background, techniques and tools, lab/research activity, question survey.

3:15 PM - 3:30 PM
Wrap up, discussion, questions, daily assessment.

Register for Physics Inside Out 2022

Registrations for PIO 2022 will be accepted through June 8, 2022. Acceptance into PIO is based on the completion of the registration form and student responses, a teacher recommendation, and availability.

Register for 2022    Download the Flyer

Note: for students entering grades 7 and 8 for fall 2022.

Physics Inside Out is funded in part by the National Science Foundation grant DMR-1610139.

Selected lessons and activities from previous years

For additional information, please contact:

David Sederberg
Director of Physics & Astronomy Outreach

Last Updated: Jun 3, 2022 1:14 PM

Department of Physics and Astronomy, 525 Northwestern Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2036 • Phone: (765) 494-3000 • Fax: (765) 494-0706

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