High Energy

Year: 1995

Length: 60 minutes

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To Melissa Franklin, staying up all night building a machine that zaps subatomic particles is as much of a kick as staying up all night listening to Frank Zappa albums.
Overview

To Melissa Franklin, staying up all night building a machine that zaps subatomic particles is as much of a kick as staying up all night listening to Frank Zappa albums. Franklin, Harvard University's first tenured female professor of physics -- a field traditionally dominated by men -- actually has much in common with the late musician. Like Zappa, she's an eclectic innovator with a somewhat quirky sense of humor and a passion for unconventional music. The multimillion-dollar, 140-ton massive particle detector at Chicago's Fermi Lab, which Franklin helped build, is to her "a beautiful object, like a sculpture."

Broadcast nationally as the lead film in the PBS series, Discovering Women

Awards & Press

Praise for "High Energy"

"Start off with Melissa Franklin, a Canadian at Harvard because Toronto turned her down, as much at home in the music of Frank Zappa as she is in the world of supercolliders, and equally funny about both. You'll be hooked."

-John Leonard, NEW YORK MAGAZINE

"Rarely has TV made science look like this much fun. Harvard Professor Franklin, the subject of ... HIGH ENERGY, designed a 70-ton collider detector microscope to track the tiniest particles in the universe in the hopes of better understanding the process that caused life on Earth. She described the excitement of her first college physics project as a rush akin to staying up all night listening to Frank Zappa, except 'You got to stay up all night building things. What could be better?' A free spirit with a stand-up comic's timing and contagious self-confidence, Franklin is shown in a rare moment of relaxation listening to Nirvana at head-splitting levels."

-Joyce Millman, SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER

"As producer David Sutherland's at-work and at-home portrait reveals, this facinating female breaks ground and opens doors everyday, and as she practices science, it's anything but dull."

-Ann Hodges, HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Awards

CINE Golden Eagle, 1995

Christopher Award, 1996

Exception Merit Media Award Winner, 1996 (co-sponsored by the National Women's Political Caucus and Radcliffe College)

Gold Apple Award, National Educational Media Network Competition, 1996

Full Length Reviews

PBS SERIES "DISCOVERS" WOMEN IN SCIENCE FIELDS

First meet Melissa Franklin, energetic "high energy" physicist, a onetime jazz disc jockey, the first woman tenured professor of science at Harvard University. She got that job after her own alma mater, the University of Toronto, turned her down.

In the Fermi National Acceleration Laboratory in Chicago, where she has helped to build "the world's biggest microscope," she's now searching for the universe's smallest particles. She wants to smack two of them together to see what happens.

As producer David Sutherland's at-work and at-home portrait reveals, this fascinating female breaks ground and open doors every day, and as she practices science, it's anything but dull.

High energy physics, as her male colleagues explain, is a macho thing of locker-room camaraderie, "a very special branch of physics that has been traditionally a man's role." Franklin has to work to win the good old boys' acceptance.

She's a great ambassador for science in the classrooms and a passionate supporter of the late, lamented super collider. She was devastated when Congress scrapped it.

"We are killing my field," she told TV critics in Los Angeles. "It's a complete lack of vision." It was the only time this "discovering" woman sounded downbeat.

-Ann Hodges, HOUSTON CHRONICLE