A grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is supporting student-faculty research at Hope College.
The grant has recently been awarded to the college's "nuclear group"--students and faculty conducting research in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry--through the NSF's "Research in Undergraduate Institutions" (RUI) program. The $163,123 award will support the group's research in radioactive nuclear beam physics for the next three years. The nuclear group has received NSF-RUI support for the past seven years.
The research team includes about four Hope students each school year, and is led by Dr. Paul DeYoung, professor of physics and chair of the department, and Dr. Graham Peaslee, an associate professor of chemistry and geological/environmental sciences.
The team is investigating nuclei that are unstable to decay -- or radioactive nuclei -- using accerelator techniques that have been developed over the past decade or two. Radioactive nuclei are accelerated to high velocities and collide with thin targets of stable nuclei, and while most of the material passes through the empty space of an atom, occasionally an individual radioactive nucleus collides with a target nucleus. The collisions produce reaction products that can be detected by sensitive instruments and they are recorded on magnetic media.
"After many such collisions the results are analyzed at Hope College and compared to model calculations to understand the forces which hold the radioactive nuclei together," Peaslee said. "This is basic scientific research that leads to a better understanding of the forces that govern the elements around us, and not to a specific product."
The group's experimental work is conducted on- campus as well as at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University in East Lansing and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
The NSF-RUI program seeks to support high-quality research by faculty members at predominantly undergraduate institutions and strengthen the research environment in academic departments that are oriented primarily toward undergraduate instruction. The program also seeks to promote the integration of research and education, including through the involvement of students in projects receiving NSF-RUI support.