This award will maintain the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL) as a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site. A diverse research program in low-energy nuclear physics is conducted at TUNL by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Duke University where the laboratory is located. This REU summer program provides undergraduate students with a realistic and active research experience through the completion of a self-contained 10-week project. The students collaborate with faculty, postdoctoral and pre-doctoral research staff from the three major research institutions, and are exposed to the graduate programs at these institutions. Through active research, seminars, lab tours, and discussion groups, the students are exposed to various aspects of nuclear physics research and its impact on other areas of research. The student acceptance process mainly targets students from small colleges and universities across the country who have limited opportunities to be involved in active research programs.

Project Report

OVERVIEW Maintaining the U.S. scientific and technological world leadership is essential for long-term global economic competitiveness. Exposure of students to frontier science questions at all education levels is an important part of attracting new generations of students to consider careers in science and technology. Recent studies by the American Institute of Physics indicate that about 36% of students receiving a bachelor’s degree with a major in physics continue to graduate school in physics within a year after graduation. Participating in research gives undergraduate students a glimpse of the graduate-school experience and offers opportunities for learning outside the classroom with emphasis on what is not known, rather than the known. The Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL) has completed its twelfth summer session of Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in nuclear physics. Undergraduate students participating in the program conduct research with faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in the TUNL consortium, which includes Duke University (Duke), North Carolina State University (NCSU), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Biographical information of program participants is summarized in the table below. Priority in our selection process was given to students from institutions where opportunities for research in nuclear and particle physics are very limited. Year Applicants (total/female/minority) Offers (tot/fem/min) NSF supported Participants* (tot/fem/min) Rising Seniors Physics Ph.D. Granting Home Institution 2009 111/22/3 17/7/2 8/3/1 7 3 2010 123/34/8 20/10/3 8/3/1 6 4 2011 167/42/4 19/10/3 10/4/2 6 5 * In 2009 & 2010 eight students were funded by the NSF, that number rose to 10 students in 2011 with the addition of the international component that provides an opportunity for students to conduct research at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN with the Duke high-energy physics group. Demographics for program participants, including students who were supported by local research groups, were 9/3/1, 9/3/1 and 12/5/3 each year, respectively. EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS Two lecture series have been developed to introduce undergraduate students participating in the program to research in nuclear and particle physics and to expose them to topics at the frontier of these fields at a level of sophistication compatible with the undergraduate physics curriculum. These series were created about a decade ago and are updated regularly to keep them modern and optimized to the educational backgrounds and research experiences of the students in the program. The first series provides an introduction to concepts in nuclear physics and tutorials on basic tools used in experimental nuclear physics for planning and making measurements and for data analysis. These lectures are given during the first two weeks of the program. The topics covered include: Radiation Interactions with Matter Nuclear Forces Nuclear Structure and Shell Model Nuclear Reaction Phenomenology Introduction to Nuclear Electronics Introduction to GEANT Introduction to Root The second series is the "TUNL Advances in Physics" seminars where local faculty and postdoctoral researches present their research or a topic of broad interest at the research frontier of nuclear and particle physics. Over the last three years these seminars included topics related to: The Neutron EDM Experiment Problems in Nuclear Astrophysics Photonuclear Physics and the High Intensity Gamma-ray Source at TUNL The Dark Matter Puzzle & Proposed Solutions Neutrinos from the Sky and Through the Earth Nucleon Structure through the JLAB Electromagnetic Microscope Nuclear Physics at Low Temperatures Ethics in Research REFLECTIONS AND THE FUTURE Over the twelve years that TUNL has hosted an REU program roughly 120 undergraduates have participated. A large fraction has continued their education in pursuit of physics Ph.D. degrees. The applicant pool for the program is filled consistently with outstanding students. There were 202 applicants for the 14 slots available in the summer 2012. The program continues to evolve in response to changes in the research frontier and new opportunities for undergraduate participation in research. For example, the program now has an international component that provides opportunities for four students to spend part of their summer at CERN working with researchers in Duke’s High Energy Physics group.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
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Kathleen V. McCloud
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Duke University
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