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InSynC: Introducing Synchrotrons into the Classroom


High school science teachers frequently say that students learn science best in the laboratory, recreating the experiments that defined modern scientific knowledge and conducting new, original research. Unfortunately, many of the most interesting experiments require equipment that is simply too costly to provide in a classroom laboratory, with price tags that can reach into the millions of dollars.

The goal of the InSynC program is to enable high school teachers and students to gain remote access to experimenting with synchrotron beamtime through a competitive, peer-reviewed proposal process. The program will train both teachers and students to formulate a hypothesis-driven scientific problem and learn the skills of writing a competitive beamtime proposal. It will broaden the scientific research community at the National Synchrotron Light Source and introduce synchrotron science into the high school curriculum. This program will start with local Long Island high schools, but we anticipate that it could be expanded to a nationwide competition and involve all US synchrotrons.


Teacher training: Teachers interested in participating in this program first take part in an intensive, 3-day synchrotron training program at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The course involves an introduction to synchrotrons and techniques, hands-on experiments, tours, and proposal-writing sessions. The course is offered 3 times per year and teachers will receive continuing education credit for participating.

Beamtime Proposals: Teachers and students formulate a hypothesis and set of experiments using conventional and synchrotron-based methods. A beamtime proposal will be written and submitted online. An NSLS Proposal Review Panel (PRP) reviews and scores the proposals. The PRP consists of a mix of synchrotron scientists and science educators, and ratings are based on scientific merit and the educational nature of the project. The highest rated proposals are allocated beamtime. If teachers wish to continue the experiments, a continuation proposal can be submitted.

Beamlines and beamtime: Approximately 2-3 days of beamtime per cycle are allocated at 3 beamlines for InSynC proposals. Specifically, beamlines equipped for remote access capabilities are used, including U2B (infrared microscopy), X26A (x-ray fluorescence microscopy), and X6A (protein crystallography). As additional beamlines are outfitted, more beamlines will be made available.

Areas of research: InSynC proposals are accepted in all areas of scientific research. However, the need for synchrotron technique(s) should be emphasized and an appropriate beamline must be available. Based on the initial suite of beamlines available for this program, experiments in earth and environmental sciences, bioenergy, biomedical imaging, and structural biology are encouraged. In addition, engineering proposals involving the development of robotics for beamline operations will also be considered.

Workshops and Events

For More Information

Any interested teacher is encouraged to contact Scott Bronson (, 631.344.4385) for more information.

Click to watch a video with more information about InSynC.
Click above to watch a video with more information about InSynC.

Sitting, from front, Janet Kaczmarek, Yuanzhi Tang, and James Ablett. Standing, from left, Scott Bronson and Paul Northrup.
Sitting, from front, Janet Kaczmarek, Yuanzhi Tang, and James Ablett. Standing, from left, Scott Bronson and Paul Northrup.