Richmond students visit JLab

Faculty member Jerry Gilfoyle brought five students from Richmond to tour the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab) in Newport News, VA this summer. Dr. Gilfoyle does nuclear physics research research at JLab using one of the large particle detectors to detect the debris from collisions of high-energy electrons (from the one-mile-around accelerator) with atomic nuclei. The picture shows the students from left Kristen Gell, Peter Humby from the University of Surrey, Nate Watwood, Omair Alam, and Haonan Liu.  The group spent the day walking through tunnels, stepping over beam lines, and climbing to the top of the three-story high CLAS12 detector that is under construction.

Richmond students standing in the middle of the structural frame holding the CLAS12 detector. The large panels behind them are time-of-flight detectors making up one layer of the device.


Physics Olympics Goes to Africa

Last summer one of the University staff, Liz Malaugh, spent a month teaching at a school in Ghana. Facilities were limited so she used some of the labs from our Physics Olympics to teach the kids some physics. The Physics Olympic labs are portable, affordable, and accessible to young kids. They don’t require a lot of high-tech sensors or data acquisition equipment to teach some basic science. In the picture below some of the students are working on building an aluminum-foil ‘boat’ for That Sinking Feeling. The boat is placed in a tub of water and weights are added until it sinks. The design that can hold the most weight wins. Notice the cool hats the students are wearing. There are more pictures and descriptions of the trip here.

Physics Olympics Goes to Africa
Students at the Grace Masak School in Ghana work on a Physics Olympics lab.


Richmond Students Present Their Nuclear Physics Research

Two University of Richmond physics majors, Liam Murray and Keegan Sherman, will be presenting posters about their research from last summer at the fall meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society. The meeting will be held in Newport Beach, CA and their work will be part of the Conference Experience for Undergraduates (CEU) held each year as this meeting to highlight undergraduate contributions to nuclear physics. Liam and Keegan both received funding for the trip from CEU and from the University. They worked last summer with Jerry Gilfoyle whose research is focused on the underlying quark and gluon structure of atomic nuclei and how the color force that binds quarks creates the world of nuclear physics. Here are links to Liam’s and Keegan’s abstracts describing their work.

Grant renewal for Dr. Jerry Gilfoyle

This spring, one of the Richmond Physics faculty, Jerry Gilfoyle had his US Department of Energy research grant renewed. Dr. Gilfoyle studies nuclear physics at Jefferson Lab, a large national accelerator lab in Newport News, VA. Dr. Gilfoyle’s work is focused on understanding how the strong force binds quarks together in protons, neutrons, and atomic nuclei. The grant will provide funds for summer stipends for Richmond undergraduates to study nuclear physics under Dr. Gilfoyle’s guidance. A supplement to the original proposal was also approved and will provide funding for a masters student to study with Dr. Gilfoyle in 2013 as part of a joint program between the University of Richmond and the University of Surrey in the UK.

Summer Research Students visit Jefferson Lab

A group of five Richmond physics students went on a tour of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab or JLab) in Newport News, VA in July. The tour was led by one of the Richmond Physics faculty, Jerry Gilfoyle, whose research is focused on the program in Hall B at JLab. Three of the Richmond students (Keegan Sherman, Liam Murray, and Spencer Bialt) are doing nuclear physics this summer with Dr. Gilfoyle. Jocelyn Xue and Rob Lee also went along. They are doing cosmology research this summer with Ted Bunn.

JLab is built around a mile-long electron accelerator (CEBAF) that can accelerate electrons up to energies of 6 GeV. The beam is then directed into one of four end stations. The group started in Hall B which holds one of the large particle detectors called CLAS. CLAS is a large, spherical, magnetic spectrometer about 10 m in diameter. It surrounds the target so nearly all of the debris from a collision with the electron beam is detected. The goal of the science at JLab is to uncover the secrets of the strong force that binds quarks together to form protons, neutrons, and, in turn, atomic nuclei. That force is described by a theory, quantum chromodynamics (QCD), that has been highly successful at higher energies and should work at JLab energies, but until now the theory has not been solved. With JLab we hope to challenge theory with new data on nucleon and nuclear structure.

The group started in Hall B. The first picture below shows them standing on the forward carriage that holds some of the CLAS components. The main part of the CLAS can be seen to the right.

Liam, Keegan, Rob, Jocelyn, and Spencer on the forward carriage in Hall B.

The second picture below shows the group now at the point where the beam enters the detector. Normally a vacuum pipe carrying the beam would go through the middle of the picture and enter the round opening behind them. In a real experiment, that opening would be filled by a target.

The group stands near the point where the electron beam enters CLAS and strikes the target.

The last shot below shows them later in the accelerator tunnel. The JLab electron beam is accelerated by superconducting cavities that have a rapidly changing electric field and form a racetrack shape about a mile around. Individual electrons injected into the machine can make up to five laps before being extracted and sent into one of the end stations. The shot below shows one of the large cryomodules at lower left that hold the cavities. A string of  cryomodules form a long chain that extends down the tunnel behind the group.

The group in the accelerator tunnel. One of the cryomodules that contain the accelerating cavities operating at less than 3 K can be seen at lower left.

Chris Musalo presents his research in nuclear physics at national meeting.

Chris Musalo, a senior physics major, recently traveled to East Lansing, Michigan for the 2011 meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics. He was part of the Conference Experience for Undergraduates and presented his poster entitled ‘Simulation of the CLAS12 Dual Hydrogen‐Deuterium Target’ on October 27. His poster is here. Part of his travel costs were paid by the American Physical Society.

Grad School Plans

A horde of recent physics grads are headed to graduate school in physics and related fields. Calina Copos and Brent Follin (class of 2010) are headed to doctoral programs on the left coast and the University of California at Davis. Calina will be doing computational physics and Brent will study cosmology. Jeff Zheng will stay on the right coast and also study cosmology. He will be at MIT. Mark Moog has been admitted to the physics program at the University of North Carolina and will be working on nuclear physics at TUNL, a nearby accelerator facility. Finally, Bernard Wittmaack will be staying a bit closer to Richmond. He will be pursuing his PhD in materials science and engineering at the University of Virginia.