The National Science Foundation has awarded a $96,000 grant to Westmont as part of a collaboration of 10 small colleges and universities to build a highly efficient large-area neutron detector, the Modular Neutron Array (MoNA). More than $700,000 has been awarded for the entire project.
The detector will be a key instrument in the study of rare isotopes at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) on the campus of Michigan State University. The study will help scientists better understand how the basic elements of our universe are synthesized inside of stars.
Beginning this summer, Warren Rogers, associate professor of physics and project director, will give two or three Westmont students the opportunity to take part in this cutting-edge research at the forefront of nuclear physics.
“This project will aid students in understanding creation through scientific lenses,” Rogers said.
The project will also give students training in scientific methods, key abilities for future research, experience working with students from other colleges, and basic knowledge of how to build, operate, and calibrate huge pieces of scientific equipment.
MoNA will significantly increase detection ability, allowing the investigation of very neutron-rich nuclei that can only be produced with small intensities and therefore are out of reach with the present neutron detection capability.
Each of the detector’s layers will be constructed and tested by one of the undergraduate institutions in the collaboration. The students will fly to the NCSL where they will assist in assembling the layers into the final MoNA detector in early spring 2003.
Westmont is an undergraduate liberal arts institution that places strong emphasis on faculty-directed student research. This project is just one example of the many opportunities students have to participate in what is oftentimes graduate-level research.
For more information, call Rogers at 805.565.6092, or the public affairs office at 805.565.7057.