Funding Opportunities

NP Early Career Opportunities

The Office of Nuclear Physics currently participates in two major programs that emphasize support for the nuclear physicists in the early stages of their research careers. These are the Early Career Research Program and the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The goals of these programs and information for potential applicants are described in detail on their web sites.

In the tables below we provide information regarding previous NP awardees under the PECASE program.

Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers:

The Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, established in 1996, honors the most promising beginning researchers in the nation within their fields. Ten federal departments and agencies annually nominate scientists and engineers at the start of their careers whose work shows the greatest promise to benefit the nominating agency's mission.  The awards are conferred annually at the White House following recommendations from participating agencies.

Provided below are the recipients where Nuclear Physics provided funding to for five years. Additional general information is available on the Office of Science web site under the Accomplishments / Awards section.

Nuclear Physics Honored by Special Award

Year Name Institution Brief Description
2015 Catherine Deibel Louisiana State University

Classical novae and Type I X-ray bursts are the most common stellar explosions in the Galaxy. Both occur in binary star systems where hydrogen-rich matter from a companion star is accreted onto the surface of a white dwarf or neutron star, respectively. As matter builds up on the surface, pressure and density increase, leading to a rise in temperature that triggers a thermonuclear runaway on the surface of the accreting star. During these thermonuclear explosions, proton-rich nuclei are synthesized via a series of charged-particle capture reactions, which are dominated by resonances. As many of these reactions involve unstable nuclei, the reaction rates can be difficult, if not impossible, to measure directly using current technology. Rates must therefore be calculated by indirect means using experimentally determined nuclear structure properties of these resonances. Specifically, the properties of resonances for some of the most uncertain reactions in novae and X-ray bursts, such as those involving 26Al and 20Na, will be measured through this research. The experimental work will rely on state-of-the-art techniques for nuclear spectroscopy using both stable and radioactive ion beams at the John D. Fox Accelerator Laboratory at Florida State University and the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System facility at Argonne National Laboratory. Using these data, important reaction rates will be calculated accurately for the first time, eliminating key uncertainties in understanding classical novae and X-ray bursts.

2015 Christopher Lee Los Alamos National Laboratory

At the heart of all ordinary matter lie the protons and neutrons (hadrons), dynamic conglomerates of quarks and gluons (partons) bound together by the strong interaction, described by the well-established theory of Quantum Chromodynamics. Yet there remain some basic puzzles to be explained. Among these are the detailed structure of the proton in terms of its partonic constituents and how the partons' angular momentum adds up to the total proton spin; the precise value of the strong coupling that sets the size of the strong interaction, for which a number of existing determinations are in tension; and the precise effect of nonperturbative hadronization (binding of partons) on strong interaction cross sections. This research will develop and apply the powerful tools of effective field theory aimed at high precision understanding of these phenomena. The project will focus especially on hadronic jet cross sections in electron-proton and proton-proton collisions that are sensitive to the strong coupling, to hadronization, and to the details of parton distributions inside protons. This work brings the power of the modern Soft Collinear Effective Theory (SCET) into the arena of medium-to-high-energy nuclear physics being pursued at the U.S. experimental frontier at facilities such as Fermilab, the Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider, Jefferson Lab, and the planned Electron-Ion Collider as well as the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. SCET makes possible the factorization of physics at widely separated energy scales in hadronic cross sections, the resummation of perturbative predictions for them to high accuracy, and the identification of universal nonperturbative effects across different observables. Reaching new levels of accuracy and precision in these theoretical predictions will lead to new and more precise extractions of the strong coupling and parton distributions that reveal the inner structure of the proton.

2015 Yen-Jie Lee Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In relativistic heavy ion collisions, a new form of matter consisting of liberated quarks and gluons, the Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP), is predicted by Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) calculations. This strongly interacting matter, first discovered at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), was found to flow more freely than any other known fluid. One typical way to study a new medium of interest is to understand the passage of particles through it. However, studies of this kind are very difficult because the QGP created in the collider lasts for just yoctoseconds (10-24seconds). To overcome this difficulty, one studies heavy ion collisions, which produce not only the QGP but also energetic gluons and quarks. Those high energy probes then lose energy by radiating gluons or by colliding with the other quarks and gluons as they traverse through the QGP medium. This sizable in‐medium energy loss, observed as the suppression of high energy particles at RHIC or the attenuation of quark and gluon jets at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), shows that the stopping power of the QGP is incredibly strong. Models based on QCD predict that the gluons, which carry larger color charge, lose more energy than quarks. At the same kinematic energy, the heavy quarks, which are moving more slowly than the light quarks, are expected to radiate less energy than the light quarks. Due to their smaller in-medium radiative energy loss, heavy quarks are ideal tools for the study of energy loss though elastic scatterings in the QGP. This research program will fully exploit the capability of the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at the LHC and utilize new means of selecting interesting events to collect high statistics data on heavy quarks in heavy ion collisions. The program of heavy quark data analysis will aim to provide important information on the elastic scattering power of the QGP to test theoretical calculations based on QCD and models connected to quantum gravity and string theory.

2015 Andrew Puckett University of Connecticut

Protons and neutrons, the building blocks of the atomic nucleus, are understood to be different quantum states of a single entity known as the nucleon. The nucleon is a bound state of three elementary particles known as quarks, confined in nucleons by the strong interaction. Owing to recent advances in experimental capability and theoretical understanding, it is now possible to map the nucleon’s three‐dimensional quark structure in both coordinate and momentum space through detailed studies of energetic electron‐nucleon collisions. The recently completed 12 gigaelectronvolt (GeV) upgrade of Jefferson Lab’s Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) nearly doubles the maximum beam energy for electron scattering experiments in the existing experimental Halls A, B and C. Combined with the unparalleled intensity and polarization of CEBAF’s continuous beam, the 12 GeV upgrade enables a three‐dimensional (3-D) nucleon imaging program of unprecedented breadth and precision. The major objective of this research is the execution of a family of experiments in Jefferson Lab’s experimental Hall A known as the Super BigBite Spectrometer (SBS) program. The SBS is a novel magnetic spectrometer designed for the detection of forward‐going, high‐energy particles produced in electron-nucleon collisions at the highest achievable intensities of CEBAF. The planned physics program of SBS will dramatically improve the world’s knowledge of two complementary aspects of nucleon structure. Measurements of proton and neutron form factors using SBS will determine the spatial distributions of the nucleon's electric charge and magnetism at distance scales approximately twenty times smaller than the charge radius of the proton. The SBS will also probe the neutron's three dimensional spin structure with unprecedented precision. Planned measurements of spin asymmetries in electron scattering from polarized 3He nuclei will provide critical input to the 3‐D imaging in momentum space of the spin and orbital motion of quarks in the neutron.

2015 Patricia Solvignon University of New Hampshire

The nuclear force, which is responsible for holding the nucleus of an atom together, has been under investigation for more than a century. Over the last decade, tremendous progress has been made with the experimental evidence of a special configuration of protons and neutrons called short-range correlations. These short-range correlations consist of protons and neutrons so close to one another that they end up overlapping in the nuclear medium. Understanding their properties is not only important to elucidate where the nuclear force’s missing strength is coming from but also has potential to clarify a forty-year-old-question about how the structure of protons and neutrons are modified inside the nucleus. Short-range correlation studies will also help in the area of astrophysics in modeling the cooling process of the neutron stars and also in the area of neutrino physics, where very precise nuclear models are needed to find the small signal created by neutrino oscillations. This project will conduct several approved experiments scheduled to run using the upgraded Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Laboratory in Newport News, VA. The results from these experiments will provide different insights into the manifestation of the nuclear force that have the potential to answer a any-decades-old-question related to the origin of the nuclear force and its effects on the substructure of protons and neutrons.

2015 Brent VanDevender Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

It is firmly established that neutrinos have a small but non-zero rest mass, contrary to the Standard Model prescription of exactly massless neutrinos. Neutrino mass could have broad consequences for physics, ranging from the microscopic details of quantum field theories for physics beyond the Standard Model to the understanding of large-scale structure in the universe. Evidence for neutrino mass follows from the observation of oscillations among the three Standard Model neutrino flavor eigenstates. Oscillation phenomena reveal the mass differences but do not depend on the absolute scale of neutrino mass. Furthermore, of the two independent mass differences, the sign is only determined for one, leading to an ambiguous hierarchical ordering of masses. The most auspicious way to measure the absolute neutrino mass scale is by the tritium endpoint method in which neutrino mass is revealed by its effects on the endpoint region of a precisely measured tritium beta-decay electron spectrum. This research will develop the recently demonstrated technique of cyclotron radiation emission spectroscopy (CRES) into a tritium endpoint experiment. The ultimate neutrino mass sensitivity of CRES has been estimated to be sensitive to neutrino masses typical of the so-called inverted mass hierarchy. An existing CRES instrument will continue to provide data for systematic studies and early tritium endpoint results. A new CRES instrument will be established with the goal to produce a neutrino mass limit comparable to existing upper limits from tritium endpoint experiments at Mainz (Germany) and Troitsk (Russia). These results will lay the foundation for the proposal of Project 8, the ultimate CRES tritium endpoint experiment to reach the neutrino mass scale of the inverted hierarchy.

NP Early Career Opportunities Archives

Last modified: 5/13/2015 12:18:47 PM