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U.S. Department of Energy Renews Award for Valparaiso University Funding for Physics Research

Valparaiso University acquired a $362,000 grant renewal from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for continuing nuclear and particle physics research over the next three years. The grant will cover funding for nine Valpo research students (three per year) and funds for faculty research.

“The continued involvement of our undergraduate students in nuclear physics research is consistent with the mission of Valparaiso University to foster in students a lifelong commitment to the search for truth, encouraging the development of a sense of personal vocation as well as the Exterior shot of Neils Science Centerintellectual and professional skills needed to pursue it,” said Shirvel Stanislaus, Ph.D., professor of physics and principal investigator for the grant. “This funding will provide multiple Valpo students with extraordinary research opportunities.”

The renewal is from a DOE grant that originated in 2015, following the end of a previous grant, which, together, have provided 37 years of continuous funding for nuclear and particle physics research at Valparaiso University. During that time, 55 Valpo undergraduate students have been supported by the grant to participate in summer research.

Valpo students and faculty study the contributions to the spin of the proton by its constituents, using polarized proton–proton collisions alongside hundreds of physicists from institutions around the world. In this experiment, carried out at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, N.Y., scientific analysis methods are used to analyze and understand the asymmetry of pions produced from collisions of longitudinally polarized protons, i.e. protons with their spin vectors aligned parallel or antiparallel to the proton momentum vector. This research will help address the question, “What role does the gluon, as one of the constituent parts of the proton, play in forming the spin of the proton?”

Most students have opportunities to visit and work with scientists at National Laboratories like Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in addition to research on campus at Valpo. Approximately 90% of students who have participated in this research have attended graduate school after graduating from Valparaiso University. Over the past 20 years, students have presented their work each fall at the Meeting of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society, a conference attended by scientists from around the world.

Continuous funding for this research began in 1983 and was initiated by Donald Koetke, Ph.D., a senior research professor at Valparaiso University, who led the program for 22 years. Professor Stanislaus has led the program since 2009 and Adam Gibson-Even ’00, Ph.D., professor of physics and astronomy, serves as co-principal investigator.