Physicists Recognized for Research Accomplishments

Released: 23-Jun-2008 12:30 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University
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Newswise — In separate awards, Alexandra Gade and Georg Bollen, physicists at Michigan State University's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), have been recognized for their research programs in basic nuclear science.

"We continue to innovate when it comes to building and operating advanced accelerator technology, but our most important asset is the collective talent we have here at MSU," said NSCL Director Konrad Gelbke. "Accolades like these demonstrate that our faculty is world-leading in rare isotope research."

Gade, Assistant Professor of Physics, who works in experimental nuclear physics, is one of just three recipients nationwide to receive a grant from the Outstanding Junior Investigator Program in nuclear physics, supported the Department of Energy. The competitive award, intended to support the development of promising early-career scientists, will provide Gade approximately $150,000 over three years, beginning this summer.

The award comes on the heels of other recent honors for Gade, who within the past year has received both a prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a $499,000 major research instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation.

Gade leads one of the pioneering efforts in nuclear science to understand how protons and neutrons are arranged in rare isotopes, laboratory-produced nuclei that are so short lived that they are not normally found on Earth. She collaborates with many experimentalists from the U.S. and abroad and, in addition, with a leading group of theorists from the University of Surrey in England who come to NSCL several times a year to conduct their research. A national user facility, NSCL has a user community that includes 700 researchers from 100 institutions in 35 countries.

Bollen, Professor of Physics, who works in experimental nuclear and atomic physics physics, is the co-recipient of the 2008 SUNAMCO Medal, awarded by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, an 86-year-old organization that promotes international cooperation in physics. The medal recognizes accomplishments in making precise measurements of nature's building-block elements, including atomic nuclei, Bollen's specialty. This ability is critical to compare how heavy nuclei really are with predictions of theoreticians.

Along with Germany-based co-recipient Heinz-Jürgen Kluge at the GSI facility in Darmstadt and the University of Heidelberg, Bollen pioneered an ultra-accurate means of measuring mass of rare nuclei, many of which exist for less than a tenth of a second. The technique, called Penning trap mass spectrometry, involves capturing and weighing exotic nuclei with a complex combination of magnetic and electric fields and other equipment capable of detecting single nuclei. The precision of the work would be akin to weighing a semi truck that had just screeched to a halt on a scale with enough precision to be able to tell if the driver had left a dollar bill on the seat " and to do so within a fraction of a second, after which time the semi would disintegrate.

Bollen's expertise in mass spectrometry spans two continents and nearly two decades. In the late 1990s he led an experimental group at the Geneva, Switzerland-based European Center for Nuclear Researcher, or CERN " the world's largest particle physics laboratory. While at CERN, Bollen pioneered a first-ever use of Penning traps to make mass measurements of rare isotopes. Since 2000 he has worked at MSU, where he designed, built and now operates the Low Energy Beam and Ion Trap (LEBIT), the most advanced mass-measurement facility of its kind in the world.

Bollen, who collaborates extensively with research groups in the United States and abroad, also has been a leader in shaping the experimental program for a next-generation U.S. laboratory for nuclear science. The DOE is expected to build such a laboratory, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, FRIB, sometime next decade. In recent years, Bollen and his collaborators from Oak Ride National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and other institutions have received more than $1 million in support from the DOE for a variety of FRIB-related research and development projects.

For more information on MSU's proposal to win the FRIB project, please see http://www.scienceandjobsformichigan.com.

NSCL is a world-leading laboratory for rare isotope research and nuclear science education.

Additional Resources:

MSU News Release, May 21, 2008, "MSU to pursue half-billion dollar federal nuclear science project," http://newsroom.msu.edu/site/indexer/3406/content.htm

NSCL News, March 20, 2008, "Mass measurement technique uncovers new iron isomer," http://www.nscl.msu.edu/ourlab/news/2008/mass-measurement-technique-uncovers-new-iron-isomer

NSCL News, February 22, 2008, "MSU physicist named Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow," http://www.nscl.msu.edu/ourlab/news/2008/msu-physicist-named-alfred-p-sloan-research-fellow

CERN Courier, Sept. 19, 2007, "Fast fragmentation produces double firsts for exotic nuclei," http://cerncourier.com/cws/article/cern/31179


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