Physics Department: REU Projects - Nuclear Physics

Nuclear Science Laboratory

Prof. Tan Ahn
Email: tan.ahn (at)

Our research group studies how nuclear properties are determined by the underlying interactions of the nucleons. This is an extremely difficult task, but we aim to make progress in this direction by studying various nuclear reactions using a variety of nuclei. One of the tools we use to study these reactions is a detector, called a time-projection chamber, that can record a 3-dimensional image of a single reaction taking place inside its gas-filled volume. By recording a large number of these images, we can deduce the probability of a certain reaction taking place. This information gives us insight into the internal dynamics of the nucleus. There is a number of opportunities for projects related to these type of measurements, which include the design of a printed-circuit board for an electron-amplification detector, design of a test chamber for testing detector gases, use of lasers in gas cells, development of particle-track visualization, and development of data analysis and data acquisition programs. Students can also participate in experiments at the Nuclear Science Lab as opportunity allows.

Prof. Daniel Bardayan
Email: dbardayan (at)

Exploding stars such as novae and supernovae produce exotic nuclei that are not typically found on Earth but must be created artificially in the laboratory.  This project involves the design, construction, and commissioning of a unique spectrometer being built at Notre Dame to study such exotic nuclei.  The student will be involved in running computer simulations of nuclear reactions, construction of the detector apparatus, and possibly performing experiments with accelerated nuclear beams at the Notre Dame Nuclear Science Laboratory.

Prof. Maxime Brodeur
Email: mbrodeur (at)

Ion trapping, an experimental technique traditionally used in atomic physics, is now being applied to perform precision measurements to help answer questions ranging from explaining the origin of the heaviest elements to searching for physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics. We are currently developing ion traps to answer these questions at the University of Notre Dame. The REU student will be involved in research and development of ion transport and trapping devices.

Prof. Mark Caprio
Email: mcaprio (at)

Prof. Caprio's research is in "ab initio" nuclear structure theory, that is, predicting the structure and excitations of light nuclei directly from the forces between the protons and neutrons.  This is a very challenging computational quantum mechanics problem, which requires large-scale supercomputer calculations.  We are working on developing methods to make this problem easier -- either by using mathematical methods, such as Lie algebras, to simplify the calculations, or by extrapolating the results obtained from smaller calculations in order to get the results we need.  The REU student project will involve working with some aspect of this problem, depending on the student's interest and background.  Background at the level of an undergraduate modern physics or quantum mechanics course is necessary, and the project will require a solid undergraduate mathematics background in linear algebra (group theory and differential equations also helpful) and good programming abilities.

Prof. Philippe Collon
Email: pcollon (at)

Radiocarbon dating of samples relevant to archaeometry. The project will cover sample preparation and graphitization as well as 14C Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) measurements using the Nuclear Science Laboratory (NSL) 10 MV Tandem accelerator. Project also includes the development of a new Cathode material press. Student will also participate in ongoing AMS measurements relevant to nuclear astrophysics and nuclear forensics done by the group.

Prof. Manoel Couder
Email: mcouder (at)

The recoil separator St. George will be used to study rare but important nuclear reaction critical to understand the evolution of the elements heavier than iron. St. George is currently being commissioned using beam from the 5U Pelletron accelerator. It is expected that during the summer the gas target of St. George will be reinstalled and that preliminary measurement will take place. Any interested REU student will be welcomed to contribute to those measurements.

Prof. Umesh Garg
Email: garg (at)

Nuclear Incompressibility is one of the three fundamental quantities characterizing the equation of state of infinite nuclear matter and the only one which has not been measured in a direct experiment. It is critical to our understanding of a wide variety of nuclear and astrophysical phenomena including neutron stars, stellar collapse, supernovae, and collective flow in high-energy heavy-ion collisions. We measure nuclear incompressibility directly by observing the compressional-mode vibrations of atomic nuclei. These experiments are carried out at the Research Center of Nuclear Physics at Osaka University, Osaka, Japan and the RIKEN Laboratory, Japan. The REU student will help with data analysis with the possibility of traveling to Japan to help with setting-up the experiment and data taking.

Prof. Graham Peaslee
Email: gpeaslee (at)

Our research is centered about the use of nuclear physics in environmental applications. Ion beam analysis techniques such as Particle-Induced Gamma-ray Emission and Particle-Induced X-ray Emission are used to screen samples for chemicals of concern such as per- and polyfluroinated alkyl substances (PFAS) and other halogenated flame retardants. This summer a new 3MV tandem pelletron accelerator will be brought online to conduct these measurements and students will be involved in the testing of the new  accelerator and its detector systems with standards and environmental samples.  Students will be involved in sample collection and preparation, running the accelerator and acquiring data, as well as data analysis and interpretation for publication.

Prof. Anna Simon
Email: anna.simon (at)

The origin of proton rich heavy elements (p-nuclei) is one of the greatest mysteries of stellar nucleosynthesis. To solve it both the properties of the stellar environment and the cross sections of the reactions that lead to production of these nuclei are required. The efforts at ND to contribute to solving this mystery are focused on both the stellar environment question (post-processing network calculations) and the nuclear reactions (measurements of the reaction cross sections). The students will be engaged in both aspects of the research. They will run the network calculations to identify possible stellar environments for p-nuclei productions. In parallel, they will get a hands-on experience setting up a new g-detector for measurements of the (p,g) and (a,g) reactions important for the synthesis of p-nuclei and possibly participating in the first measurements using the new detector.