Making Science Fun at Brookhaven Lab's Summer Sundays

Nearly 5,000 community members visited Brookhaven Lab at its annual open house events

Summer Sundays enlarge

At Family Fun Day, visitors get the opportunity to explore Brookhaven's Science Learning Center.

Every year, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory invites the public to explore the Lab and engage with cutting-edge science during free open house events called Summer Sundays. Over four consecutive Sundays in July and August, visitors get the opportunity to tour Brookhaven’s biggest scientific facilities: the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN)—all DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

This year, Summer Sundays had nearly 5,000 attendees! Each Sunday focused on a different facility at Brookhaven through tours, shows, and hands-on activities that connect community members of all ages to the scientific discoveries happening year-round at Brookhaven.

“Summer Sundays continue to be an excellent way for people to visit our facilities, learn more about what we do, and meet the amazing people who make great science happen at Brookhaven,” said Kahille Dorsinvil, Summer Sundays coordinator. “Every Summer Sunday series depends on the entire Lab community working together to make the experience fun, safe, and memorable for the thousands of interested visitors who come each year.”

Four days of free science fun

Making Science Fun at Brookhaven Lab's Summer Sundays

The 2019 Summer Sunday season kicked off on July 14 with a fantastic day of hands-on, family fun at Brookhaven’s Science Learning Center. Throughout the day, hundreds of families experimented with magnets, looked through microscopes, and explored nanotechnology to learn more about the Lab’s research. Visitors were also able to see the Super Scientific Circus perform “The Magic of Energy” show and participate in activities from the Lab’s Environment, Safety & Health Directorate focused on Long Island’s natural environment. Brookhaven atmospheric scientist Steven E. Schwartz also gave family-friendly talks about energy and climate, called “Energy, CO2, Climate & You!”

For the second Summer Sunday on July 21, visitors toured the source of some of the world’s brightest x-rays, NSLS-II. Scientists at NSLS-II use ultrabright x-rays to “see” the physical, chemical, and electronic makeup of all kinds of materials, like batteries, ancient artworks, biological cells, and more. Guests had the choice of taking a long or short tour around the facility’s giant, circular experimental floor, which is big enough to fit Yankee Stadium inside! Prismatic Magic’s Science Spectacular Laser Light Show delved into mysteries of light, color, and perception, while Brookhaven scientist and electrical engineer Shaorui Li discussed how engineers use microelectronics to build machines like NSLS-II.

On July 28, the public was invited to explore ultra-small science at CFN, one of DOE’s five Nanoscale Science Research Centers. Scientists at CFN study materials that are as tiny as a billionth of a meter, with a strong focus on energy-related materials. CFN’s world-class facilities, including advanced electron microscopes and a cleanroom, were on display during the tour, and visitors were able try “virtual nano reality.” Brookhaven scientist Greg Doerk gave talks about a phenomenon called “self-assembly,” in which nanostructures build themselves! Younger visitors were able to enjoy “The Magic of Chemistry” show, where circus tricks helped explain molecules, magnetism, and more.

The final Summer Sunday on August 4 was filled with atom-smashing fun at RHIC, the only operating particle collider in the U.S. Physicists at RHIC smash atoms together to recreate the incredibly dense and hot conditions of the early universe. Visitors could see the house-sized STAR detector that takes snapshots of these particle collisions, and they walked through the facility’s underground accelerator tunnel. The “hot and cold” science of RHIC was explained by Associate Lab Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics Berndt Muller, and everyone was invited to ask Brookhaven physicists about careers in science during an in-person “Ask me Anything” session.

Hearts collide at the particle collider

Michael and Victoria enlarge

Brookhaven Lab was honored to have two community members get engaged at the RHIC Summer Sunday. Congratulations to the lucky couple, Michael and Victoria!

This year at the RHIC Summer Sunday, Brookhaven Lab was honored to have two community members get engaged at the collider. Congratulations to the lucky couple, Michael and Victoria!

Michael and Victoria met in May of 2016 and attended their first Summer Sunday together that year. Since then, they’ve attended regularly.

“We enjoy the way the Lab explains it’s work to the public and being allowed to visit areas that are normally not accessible,” Michael said. “We’re very proud of the work done at Brookhaven.”

But Michael and Victoria’s connection to the Lab actually runs deeper. After finding out that Michael is an environmental scientist, Victoria was excited to talk to him about Brookhaven during their first conversation. They later attended a community advisory council meeting together, and Michael drew a special connection between his relationship and RHIC.

“I’m pretty tall and Vicki is pretty short,” Michael said. “Over the past few years we’ve gotten a big kick out of taking pictures next to very large or very small things. I could think of no better place than to ask her to marry me next to the largest pair of rings in the western hemisphere.”

He added, “I love my fiancé!”

Photo contest winners

Another “first” at Summer Sundays this year was the Lab’s first Summer Sundays Photo Contest. The grand prize was four tickets to see the Long Island Ducks at Bethpage Ballpark. Four additional photos were selected to receive smaller prizes. Congratulations to all of the winners!

More information about next year’s Summer Sundays will be available in Spring 2020. Follow Brookhaven Lab on Facebook for the most up-to-date information, or visit the Summer Sundays website.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

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2019-16714  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom