This semester MacKay of Brookline will take English, math, social studies, Physics I, and Science A-26, "Waves, Particles, and Structure of Matter."
But MacKay isn't a Harvard student. She is from Montrose High School. And she's here because the professor wouldn't teach the course if she weren't.
Last Thursday night, MacKay and about 150 other Boston-area high schoolers listened to Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics Roy J. Glauber lecture in the Science Center as part of a new Harvard Extension School program.
The high school students will join their teachers and regular Extension School students every Thursday evening through May.
Let's Make a Deal
When Extension School Director Michael Shinagel asked Glauber to "extend" his popular Core course, Glauber agreed--but only if local high school students were invited to enroll free of charge.
Shinagel, a classmate and friend of Glauber's from the first graduating class of the Bronx High School of Science in New York, liked the idea, despite its financial logistics.
Glauber said that because of the course's cost. "It's going to be a money-losing proposition for the Extension School."
But the high schoolers said they appreciated the change from their regular grind.
"I think this will add to what we're doing in Physics I, but this is more specialized," MacKay said. "I've never taken a course like this before."
Glauber started off by telling his unusually large class that studying light is relatively easy (because it's "cheap stuff") and that understanding light makes understanding matter easier.
"Physics learns about the world in successive approximations," he said illuminating his lecture with demonstrations. For example, "light always goes in straight lines--except when it doesn't."
To illustrate light's behavior, Glauber's assistant Wolfgang Rueckner took the lens off their TV camera and replaced it with a sheet of foil.
As Rueckner punched a tiny hole in the foil, Glauber announced they were making "the world's most expensive pinhole camera." The camera successfully projected Rueckner's face onto the screen.
Using lasers, he also talked about how light behaves when reflected, and he described the history of the study of light.
Students' reactions to the lecture varied. Many of them talked to Glauber and snooped around the equipment afterwards.
David Hunter of East Boston High School had more practical motives: "I figured this course would be credit for college."
The high schoolers especially liked the demonstrations. One student had nothing but praise for the Science Center: "This place is bad."