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 recipients of 2017 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 2017 Early Career Awards in Nuclear Physics:




Brief Description


Kelly A. Chipps

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

“Next-Generation Particle Spectroscopy at FRIB”

Nuclear reaction studies with radioactive beams can provide crucial information on the
structure of exotic nuclei, the mechanisms by which they interact and self‐organize, and how strongly they participate in the reactions that drive explosive and quiescent astrophysical scenarios. A powerful tool for studying transfer reactions is the solenoidal spectrometer, such as the HELIcal Orbit Spectrometer (HELIOS) device at Argonne National Laboratory. By applying a large external magnetic field, a simple relationship between the position of a detected particle and its energy is obtained, and experiments do not suffer from the kinematic compression and worsened energy resolution of typical
transfer reaction measurements with radioactive beams. However, with increasingly exotic beams such as those anticipated from the flagship Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), target effects play a larger and larger role in the best achievable resolution of solenoidal spectrometers. A gas jet provides a dense,
localized, uniform, and robust target for radioactive beam reaction studies with many significant advantages over traditional target materials. For light‐ion‐induced nucleon transfer reactions, a gas jet provides a pure target of hydrogen, deuterium, or helium, without window materials or contaminants.
The target is also robust against radiation and heat damage. By providing a gas target that is localized, reaction products can be precisely measured, and coincidence measurements are improved. Transfer reaction measurements made with gas jet targets can be cleaner, can display better resolution than those made with traditional targets, and can overcome the current bottleneck in the best achievable resolution of HELIOS‐like devices. This research program will undertake a unique technical approach,
implementing a pure and localized gas jet target with HELIOS and exploiting the hybrid system to better
understand exotic nuclei and their astrophysical reactions. Such a device could then act as a blueprint for a next‐generation solenoidal spectrometer at FRIB. With the availability of a pure and localized gas jet target in combination with developments in exotic radioactive beams and next‐generation solenoidal spectrometers, the range of reaction studies that are experimentally possible with FRIB is vastly


Matthew R. Dietrich

Argonne National Laboratory

“Future Directions in the Hunt for the Electric Dipole Moment of Radium”

One great mystery is how our universe came to be dominated by matter when our current
understanding suggests that a nearly perfect symmetry should exist between matter and antimatter. The Big Bang should have yielded a universe with nearly equal parts matter and anti‐matter, with subsequent matter‐antimatter annihilation leading to a universe almost devoid of either. These considerations imply there must be some significant, undiscovered violation of time‐reversal (T) symmetry. Under Time‐reversal symmetry, physics should behave identically if time runs forward or backwards. The discovery of any new fundamental process or property that violates T‐symmetry would therefore provide a powerful clue toward solving the matter‐antimatter mystery. One such property is
an Electric Dipole Moment (EDM). This research will look for the EDM of a radium atom, which is
believed to have remarkable sensitivity to T‐symmetry violating forces due to the unusual “egg‐like,” asymmetric shape of the radium nucleus. To measure the EDM of this rare atom, lasers are used to cool and trap radium at a temperature less than one thousandth of a degree above absolute zero, and its
rotation in an intense electric field is observed. At present, radium’s EDM is known to be less than
1.4×10‐23 e‐cm, about 300 trillion times smaller than that of a water molecule. This work will improve experimental sensitivity more than 1000‐fold, thereby breaking new ground into the origins of the violation beyond the Standard Model that could explain matter’s dominance in the universe. This research will also study the possibility of performing a similar experiment on the molecule radium monofluoride, which could further improve the experiment’s sensitivity by a factor of hundreds due to the enormous electric fields that exist within a radium monofluoride molecule.


Heiko Hergert

Michigan State University

“Advanced Ab initio Methods for Nuclear Structure”

Exotic neutron‐rich nuclei have moved firmly into focus in nuclear physics research. The
structure of these nuclei is governed by a complex interplay of nuclear forces, strong many‐body correlations, and continuum effects. It challenges our present understanding and has far‐reaching implications, ranging from the creation of elements in the cosmos to tests of fundamental symmetries of the Standard Model of Physics. The Department of Energy's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) will make it possible to produce and study many of these exotic nuclei for the first time under laboratory conditions. The experimental efforts at FRIB and similar facilities go hand in hand with theory efforts to develop a reliable description of exotic nuclei. The present project will develop advanced theoretical methods for that purpose, with an emphasis on renormalization group ideas. It will leverage state‐of the‐art computational techniques to handle the enormous memory requirements of nuclear forces and the computational effort associated with the treatment of deformed, weakly bound nuclei. The goal is to create a framework that can scale from day‐to‐day applications in support of experimental data analysis to large‐scale simulations on leadership‐class computers.


Richard L. Longland

North Carolina State University

“Measurements at the Facility for Experiments of Nuclear Reactions in Stars (FENRIS)”

Nuclear reactions in stars have transformed the universe since the Big Bang, turning hydrogen
and helium into the heavier elements we see around us today. These reactions fuel a star throughout its lifetime. These reactions fuel a star throughout its lifetime. When the star burns out, its ashes are ejected into space to enrich the next generation of stars. Thus, to understand the origin of the elements in the cosmos, we must learn how stars burn their fuel. In this stellar burning, the rates of nuclear reactions are key. The rates can, in principle, be determined by recreating the reactions in the laboratory. At the low energies characteristic of stellar burning, however, many of the reactions occur
too rarely to be measured. Novel, indirect measurements must be used. A research program will be developed to perform such measurements, primarily using the Facility for Experiments of Nuclear Reactions in Stars (FENRIS), a charged‐particle spectrometer at the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL). At FENRIS, high‐energy nuclear reactions coupled with theoretical models will be used to ascertain the rate of the low‐energy nuclear reactions occurring in stars. Detailed analysis of the
data will reveal the structure of nuclei and how they affect stellar burning. High‐energy photons will be used as a different lens with which to examine these nuclei at another facility ‐ the High Intensity gamma‐ray Source – to supplement the measurements at FENRIS. In parallel to these experimental efforts, theoretical tools will be developed to identify which nuclear reactions are most critical for understanding stars, helping set the priorities for future measurements. This complementary suite of experiments and theoretical calculations will be used to answer one of the key questions facing the physics community: How did visible matter come into being and how did it evolve?


Dennis V. Perepelitsa

University of Colorado

“Searching for Parton Energy Loss in Quark-Gluon Plasma Droplets”

Very high energy collisions of nuclei at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) create a Quark‐Gluon Plasma (QGP), a high‐temperature, high‐density form of matter in which quarks and gluons, collectively called partons, are freed from their normal state of being bound in protons and neutrons. The formation of a QGP is understood to have several experimental indications, including: (1) correlations in how the particles produced in the collision are distributed in
angle, attributed to a QGP that can “flow” with near perfect fluidity, and (2) the degradation of high energy collections of particles, called “jet quenching”, attributed to a QGP that attenuates any partons that attempt to pass through it. Remarkably, recent measurements of flow‐like correlations in much smaller collisions of protons and deuterons with nuclei suggest that a droplet, or small region, of QGP is formed even in these systems. However, the expected accompanying signature of jet quenching has yet to be observed. Given the complications in applying traditional observables to these small systems, a search for jet quenching requires the examination of individual events, such as those with a produced
photon and particle jet pair. In these events, the photon escapes the collision zone without interacting and provides an estimate for the energy of the balancing partons before they pass through the QGP. For this reason, photon‐tagged measurements have long been recognized by the theoretical and experimental communities as a “golden channel” probe of these effects. Through the analysis of highluminosity data recently collected by the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) detector at the LHC and that
to be collected with the sPHENIX (super Pioneering High Energy Nuclear Interaction eXperiment) detector at RHIC, this research seeks to determine how high‐energy partons are affected by the varying shapes and sizes of QGP regions they encounter.


Ted C. Rogers

Old Dominion University

“Fundamental QCD Theory and Transverse Momentum Dependent Physics”

Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) is the fundamental theory of the strong nuclear interaction. It lies at the root of the interactions between the elementary particles (quarks and gluons) that are ultimately responsible for the structure of particles like protons and neutrons that form ordinary matter.
However, the precise mechanisms by which quarks and gluons interact to form the particles seen in nature remain mysterious and only partially understood. A major difficulty to forming a complete picture comes from the fact that QCD has dramatically different characteristics over large and small spacetime scales. Over small scales, quarks and gluons couple only loosely, so small‐coupling theoretical techniques (called “perturbative”) predict patterns of quark and gluon radiation with very high accuracy.
By contrast, interactions over large scales involve a very strong coupling and are characterized by the types of QCD interactions (called “non‐perturbative”) responsible for binding quarks and gluons tightly together. In high‐energy QCD experiments, an intricate combination of large‐scale and small‐scale interactions is responsible for physical observables like scattering cross‐sections. Therefore, one of the keys to understanding how QCD gives rise to measured physical quantities in nature is the ability to
disentangle these large‐scale and small‐scale interactions in theoretical calculations. A prescription for doing this is called a factorization theorem. A successful factorization theorem is the critical bridge between perturbative calculations of small‐scale physics, non‐perturbative calculations of large‐scale
physics, and experimental data. Experimental strategies continue to focus, with ever‐greater detail, on the precise momentum and energy distributions of final states produced in high‐energy particle collisions. At the same time, the associated factorization theorems necessary to interpret these data and extract meaningful information about fundamental QCD interactions become increasingly subtle. This project will improve existing factorization theorems to the point that they can be used most effectively in the future analysis and interpretation of transverse momentum dependent (TMD) observables. New theoretical techniques will be developed where needed, while incomplete aspects of established factorization theorems will be addressed. The outcome will be a unified factorization framework for combining non‐perturbative theoretical calculations consistently with perturbative QCD calculations,
such that descriptions of fundamental quark and gluon interactions can be meaningfully tested against TMD observables.


Justin Stevens

College of William and Mary

“Strange Mesons and Gluonic Excitations”

In the standard model of particle physics, the interactions between the fundamental
constituents of nuclear matter, quarks and gluons, are governed by the theory of Quantum
Chromodynamics (QCD). A central goal of nuclear physics is to understand how hadrons, such as protons and neutrons, are formed from these underlying quark and gluon degrees of freedom. A hadron is primarily constructed from three quarks or a quark‐antiquark pair; however, the theory of QCD allows for much more exotic configurations. One of the predicted exotic configurations is known as a hybrid meson, which contains an excited gluonic field in addition to the usual quark‐antiquark pair. This project aims to search for and study these gluonic excitations using the Gluonic Excitation (GlueX) experiment at Jefferson Lab in Newport News, VA. The discovery potential of the experiment will be significantly extended by studying the quark flavor composition of the meson spectrum through the completion and use of an enhanced detector to identify mesons containing strange quarks. The unprecedented statistical precision of the data collected at GlueX will allow us to search for a pattern of light‐quark hybrid mesons, providing new insight into the interactions that bind the fundamental quarks and gluons
into the hadrons we observe in nature.

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 >>

NP Early Career Opportunities Archives

Last modified: 12/13/2017 2:48:05 PM