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.

The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)

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.

Dr. Matthias R. Schindler

The PECASE Award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers.  The awards are conferred annually at the White House following recommendations from participating agencies.  To be eligible for a PECASE Award, an individual must be a U.S. citizen, national, or permanent resident.  Each PECASE Award will be of five years duration.  Individuals can receive only one PECASE award in their careers.

Dr. Matthias R. Schindler is the 2013 recipient for this awardExternal link and was presented to him on May 4, 2016.  Dr. Schindler is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of South Carolina.  His research in theoretical nuclear physics focuses on fundamental symmetries, in particular parity invariance, in the interactions in few-nucleon systems.

For innovative theoretical research to establish a systematic framework for the description of parity violation in few-nucleon systems, for calculating reliable and testable relations between observables in light nuclei, and for scientific leadership in the area of parity violation. Read More >>

The recipients of 2016 Early Career Awards in Nuclear Physics are given below, together with their institutions and proposal titles and abstracts. Additional information regarding these awards is available on the Office of Science website in the section on Accomplishments / Awards.

Recipients of 2016 Early Career Awards in Nuclear Physics:

Sean M. Couch
Michigan State University

“The Core-collapse Supernova Sensitivity Machine”

Massive stars die in cataclysmic explosions called core‐collapse supernovae.  These supernovae
are the most extreme laboratories for nuclear physics in the universe.  Supernovae give birth to neutron stars and black holes and, in the process, synthesize most of the elements heavier than  helium throughout the universe.  The behavior of matter at extreme densities is crucial to the supernova mechanism.  Fundamental nuclear interactions are crucial, too.  Despite the key role supernovae play in many aspects of astrophysics and decades of research effort, we still do not understand the details of the physical mechanism that causes these explosions.  This leaves us uncertain about the chemical evolution of the universe and makes it difficult to directly connect nuclear physics to observational data of supernovae.  This project aims to increase our understanding of stellar death, the creation of the elements, and the role that nuclear physics plays in both through a comprehensive, end‐to‐end study of the  explosions  of  massive  stars.  This research includes exploration of the role of turbulence in supernovae through cutting‐edge simulations of stellar core collapse and explosion.  New computational techniques will be explored that may point the way toward astrophysical simulations at the exascale.  This project will make direct connections between observations of supernovae and nuclear physics through detailed parameter studies of stellar explosions with varied input physics.  This research will lead to the development of a publicly available framework for carrying out controlled‐parameter studies of the supernova mechanism.  Through quantifying the sensitivity of key supernova observables to uncertain nuclear theory parameters, this project will provide guidance to experimental efforts at nuclear physics facilities.

Jonathan W. Engle
Los Alamos National Laboratory

“Nuclear Data for Spallation Neutron Radioisotope Production”

Over 50 million nuclear medicine procedures are performed annually, leading to a multi‐billion
dollar market  for  radioisotope  production.  The demand or new medical and research isotopes continues to grow, and the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC) has recently identified dozens of radioisotopes whose supply is insufficient.  Most radioisotope production today utilizes charged particle or low‐energy neutron irradiation of a target.  Isotope production using neutrons with 101-2 MeV incident energies is a relatively unexplored option. There is a tremendous opportunity associated with a growing number of suitable domestic and international facilities buttressed by hundred million dollar global investments (e.g., the Los Alamos and Brookhaven Isotope Production Facilities, the European Spallation Source in Lund, and the Korean Multi‐purpose Accelerator Complex in Gyeongbuk).  In part due to a lack of supporting nuclear data that would make modeling radioisotope yields and purities possible, these facilities do not utilize their high‐energy neutron fluxes for isotope production.  I propose to measure neutron reaction excitation functions relevant to the large‐scale production of critical radioisotopes, enabling development of cost‐efficient isotope production methods, contributing to the improvement of theoretical models, and enhancing the value of national isotope production facilities. Reactions that form 67Cu, 32Si, and alpha‐emitting isotopes like 225Ac are chosen for their consistent prioritization by NSAC panels, representation of diverse reaction mechanisms, fit to unique Los Alamos National Laboratory expertise, and relative lack of supporting nuclear data.  Accurate measurement of these data is presently made using quasi‐monoenergetic neutron beams, which are produced by bombarding thin lithium targets with protons at only a few laboratories in the world.  These laboratories' experimental focus has not yet been brought to bear on the potential for fast neutron‐induced radioisotope production.  This work will establish valuable international collaborative relationships with the potential to create a sustained measurement program; characterize new medium‐energy neutron‐ induced reactions relevant to radioisotope production, facility design, and the ongoing effort to improve nuclear codes' predictive power; and enable consideration of achievable yields and radioisotopic impurities likely formed in reactions of current interest to the Department of Energy's Isotope Program.

Grigory V. Eremeev
Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

“Formation of Superconducting Nb3Sn Phase for Superconducting
Radio Frequency (SRF) Cavities”

Superconducting cavities are an essential part of many energy‐efficient particle accelerators
around the world.  The current material of choice for superconducting cavities is niobium, which is the material with the highest transition temperature among pure metals.  Today’s multi‐cell structures reach accelerating gradients and quality factor values close to the intrinsic limits of niobium.  Future improvements of superconducting cavities will require a different material with a higher transition temperature.  In particular, superconductors with a critical temperature higher than that of niobium would enable equivalent operation at a higher temperature, thereby reducing the very significant cryogenic capital and operational costs.  This research aims to understand and improve the present state‐of‐the‐art Nb3Sn coatings for accelerator applications.  The project, being targeted at accelerating charged beams, will pursue both fundamental and practical aspects of Nb3Sn coatings on cavity structures.  At the same time, we will pursue understanding of the coating limitations via research using single‐cell cavities and small samples.  This project will expand our understanding of new materials for accelerator applications, which is a growing research area at Jefferson Lab.  Successful coating of Nb3Sn on cavities will result in quality factors and gradients higher than those presently available in niobium cavities.  This will provide more efficient superconducting cavities, thereby potentially impacting any future accelerator project based on superconducting radio frequency technology.

Jacklyn M. Gates
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

“Mass Measurements and Decay Spectroscopy of the Heaviest Elements”

What is the heaviest nucleus that can exist?  Is there an island of stability with 'long‐lived'
Superheavy (SHE) elements beyond uranium?  These questions have been at the center of nuclear physics for nearly half a century.  They remain some of the most fascinating and elusive open problems in nuclear physics and ones that test our fundamental understanding of nuclei.  Over the past 15 years, six new elements with proton numbers Z=113‐118 have been discovered, and much progress has been made towards determining whether an island of stability exists for superheavy nuclei beyond uranium (92 protons).  Most strikingly, these new elements can currently be produced at the rate of atoms‐per‐ week (Z=112‐113,116‐118) or even atoms‐per‐day (Z=114, 115).  However, very little is known about these nuclei other than their average lifetimes and that they mainly decay through the emission of α‐ particles or spontaneous fission.  Even the atomic numbers and mass assignments of SHEs remain unconfirmed.  The goals of this project are to initiate a new program of experiments aimed at determining the masses and atomic numbers of SHE and then to delve further into understanding the nuclear properties of these superheavy nuclei by obtaining detailed information on their nuclear structure.

Matthew Redshaw
Central Michigan University

“High-precision Penning trap Measurements of β-decay Q-values for Neutrino Physics”

The discovery of neutrino flavor oscillations has shown that neutrinos have non‐zero masses.
This result has led to modifications of the Standard Model and has wide‐ranging implications in fields from particle physics to cosmology.  However, important fundamental questions remain:  What is the absolute neutrino mass scale?  Is the neutrino a Majorana or a Dirac particle?  To address these questions, several large‐scale neutrino experiments are now underway, and more are being planned.  These include both direct neutrino mass measurements and searches for neutrinoless double beta‐ decay.  Planning these experiments and interpreting their results will require accurate determinations of the relevant beta‐decay “Q‐values.” The Q‐value is essentially the mass difference between the initial (parent) and final (daughter) nuclides in the decay.  The goal of this research is to provide, using Penning Trap Mass Spectrometry (PTMS), high‐precision Q‐values for the beta decays of the isotopes under consideration for neutrino experiments.  A new PTMS facility will be constructed at Central Michigan University to determine the Q‐values of 187Re and 163Ho to a fractional precision of about 10 parts per trillion, which is the accuracy required for direct neutrino mass measurements.  In addition, existing PTMS facilities at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory will be used to search for ultra‐low Q‐values (less than 1 keV) in beta decays of certain initial isotopes to excited‐state daughter nuclei. In many a priori possible candidate beta decays, the masses of the parent and daughter nuclides are not yet known with sufficient accuracy to determine whether the decay is actually allowed. If a beta decay with an ultra‐low Q‐value is identified, it may prove useful in motivating future direct neutrino mass measurements.  We will also carry out PTMS measurements that determine double beta‐decay and double‐electron‐capture Q‐values as well as Q‐values for other rare weak decays, which may prove useful for other current and future experiments.

Christopher Wrede
Michigan State University

“Critical Thermonuclear Reactions in Classical Novae and Type l X-ray Bursts”

This research will experimentally constrain the thermonuclear rates of the 30P(p,γ)31S and 15O(α,γ)19Ne reactions, which strongly influence nucleosynthesis and energy generation in simulations of classical novae and type I x‐ray bursts, respectively.  To accomplish this, a micro pattern gas amplifier detector will be constructed at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory on the campus of Michigan State University to measure the low energy proton and α‐particle emissions following the β decays of 31Cl and 20Mg, respectively.  The experimental results will be used as input to state‐of‐the‐art computer simulations of these astrophysical events in order to predict the composition of nova ejecta and the shapes of x‐ray burst light curves.  Comparing the simulations to observation will help to identify pre‐solar nova grains in primitive meteorites, determine peak nova temperatures, and use x‐ray bursts as a window on the extreme nature of neutron stars.

NP Early Career Opportunities Archives

Last modified: 5/17/2016 12:22:24 PM