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 on the field of experimental nuclear
astrophysics. I am interested in how matter is created in
our galaxy and what we need to experimentally study 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
important in X-rays 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 studying the nuclear properties of
the involved nuclei and in the near future directly with
new devices like 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 many of the
relevant nuclear physics are not yet known. I am currently
measuring many of those cross sections relevant in the
weak r-process. I am also working in the new Separator
for Capture Reactions (SECAR) which will be used
for measurements of low-energy capture reactions of
importance for nuclear astrophysics.

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 beamtuning

Scientific publications