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Title ImagePublic Abstract


DE-SC0024629: Multidisciplinary Training Experience in Nuclear Science "Mt. ENS"

Award Status: Active
  • Institution: San Jose State University Research Foundation, San Jose, CA
  • DUNS: 056820715
  • Most Recent Award Date: 09/20/2023
  • Number of Support Periods: 1
  • PM: Bryson, Tasia
  • Current Budget Period: 09/01/2023 - 08/31/2024
  • Current Project Period: 09/01/2023 - 08/31/2026
  • PI: Esker, Nicholas
  • Supplement Budget Period: N/A

Public Abstract

San Jose State University

PI: Nicholas Esker

Project Summary/Abstract

The proposed program will establish a sustaining partnership between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Minority Serving Institution (MSI) San José State University (SJSU). Under the Multidisciplinary Training Experience in Nuclear Science (Mt. ENS) traineeship, we will create, for the first time, a course-based nuclear data measurement traineeship. The goal of this traineeship is to introduce students to nuclear science through a credit-course at the early stages of an undergraduate degree, while they actively engage in research activities at a national laboratory. Mt. ENS will open new career avenues for under-represented minority (URM) students, diversify the nuclear science workforce, and foster success of the NP mission.

At SJSU, undergraduate students will be able to earn credit towards their degree while being trained in nuclear science. Providing a class with credit has several educational benefits, and it is attractive to students for their graduation requirements, as well as for their transcripts, if they decide to pursue a master’s or a Ph.D. degree in nuclear science. The course format will consist of lectures with introductory concepts in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, paired with a laboratory component. One unique aspect to this planned course, which leverages the proximity of SJSU to LLNL, is the hands-on fieldtrips that will be integrated directly into the course material. During these fieldtrips to dedicated facilities at LLNL, each topic introduced in class will be further explored, giving students the opportunity to experience the different components of nuclear data measurements, from target fabrication to irradiation to final analysis. As a result, they will gain an understanding of what goes into a full measurement, which is sometimes missed when different groups perform each of these different steps. This comprehensive experience is needed to support our nuclear science pipelines, which often pulls from knowledge in different areas. Because the students will have become familiar with some of the concepts and facilities, they will be able to spend their internship in the summer delving deeper into the suite of modern methods used in nuclear-data measurements. Students will experience being part of a team working together through the complete lifecycle of an experiment. This type of immersive, collaborative research has been shown to be a high impact practice for retaining URM students in STEM. Each student will be paired with a mentor who will oversee their technical work. In addition, being onsite at the LLNL campus, they will interact with other students, postdoctoral researchers, and research staff scientists engaged in nuclear-science research. URM students are often burdened with part-time jobs in order to provide for themselves. Our goal is for students to fulfill their course requirements and pursue their research projects full-time, free from the stress of financial burdens. Financial compensation will be provided for the full duration of the traineeship, at rates comparable to living wages in the area.

The proposed Mt. ENS program is a joint effort between LLNL and SJSU, focusing on strengthening the pipeline needed to establish a diverse and inclusive workforce. Combining capabilities and expertise from both institutions, we will create an opportunity for URM students to be introduced to nuclear science through a credit-course at the early stages of an undergraduate degree, while they actively engage in research activities at a national laboratory. The course will provide students the necessary introductory knowledge for their summer internships. With course knowledge, students will then be able to spend their summer internship contributing to real multidisciplinary nuclear-data-measurement problems. Gaining hands-on experience and meaningfully contributing to nuclear science research have proven to be a high- impact practice for engagement and retention. Recruiting young talent and improving retention of underrepresented groups in nuclear physics will broaden the nuclear science pipeline and bring expertise needed for the full breadth of the Office of Science research activities.

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