Fernando Montes

Research Staff Physicist


  • Joined the laboratory in March 2007
  • Experimental nuclear astrophysics
  • Contact information

Education and training

  • BA, Physics, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia 1998
  • PhD, Physics, Michigan State University 2005


My research is in the field of experimental nuclear astrophysics. I am interested in how matter is created in our galaxy and what we need to studey experimentally to one day understand how it happens. I measure nuclear properties and reactions relevant for matter creation using a combination of different methods and detectors. The second aspect of my research involves studying reactions that are important in X-ray bursts. These events provide clues on neutron stars but there are several important nuclear reactions that need to be determined first. I study those reactions indirectly by measuring the nuclear properties of the involved nuclei, and in the near future directly with new devices like the Separator for Capture Reactions (SECAR).

The r-process creates roughly half of the elements heavier than iron in our galaxy. The weak r-process is responsible for a large amount of those abundances up to silver. Unfortunately, there are many things we do not know about the process (where it takes place, specific astrophysical conditions, etc.) since some of the relevant nuclear physics, e.g., reaction cross sections, is not yet sufficiently well known.

How students can contribute as part of my research team

A new device like SECAR provides plenty of opportunities for exiting nuclear astrophysics research. On top of that we have started applying machine-learning algorithms in order to properly tune and operate it. During the next few years, SECAR not only will be at the vanguard of nuclear astrophysics research but will also provide an ideal testing ground to apply machine-learning techniques for beam tuning optimization.

Scientific publications