MSU Cryogenic Initiative, Accelerator Science and Engineering Traineeship program gaining momentum after first year

07 September 2018

In 2017, FRIB established the MSU Cryogenic Initiative with the MSU College of Engineering, and MSU established an Accelerator Science and Engineering Traineeship (ASET) program.

MSU Cryogenic Initiative

The MSU Cryogenic Initiative combines classroom education with training on cutting-edge technologies. It includes advancements in the cryogenic field that exist and are used at FRIB. A concentration in cryogenic engineering has been added to the mechanical engineering undergraduate curriculum.

After its first year, the program is growing and garnering increasing interest. This fall, there are three graduate and two undergraduates enrolled in the program. Thirteen students are enrolled in the fall course, Mechanical Engineering 414, Mechanical Design of Cryogenic Systems. The cryogenic engineering course held at the U.S. Particle Accelerator School (USPAS) at MSU earlier this summer was filled to capacity. Students came from across the nation and internationally, including students from government laboratories.

The program is led by Rao Ganni and Peter Knudsen. Their collective cryogenic engineering experience spans more than six decades. Ganni is the director of the MSU Cryogenic Initiative. Knudsen is a senior cryogenic process engineer at FRIB. Nusair Hasan is a cryogenics engineer who also recently joined the initiative. All organize and teach courses in the program.

The MSU Cryogenic Initiative:

  • Educates and trains future cryogenic engineers and system innovators;
  • Develops and maintains a cryogenic system knowledge base of cryogenic technology and skills;
  • Investigates, proposes, and fosters efficient cryogenic process designs and research of advanced cryogenic technologies;
  • Maintains a knowledge base to operate unsupported equipment.

Tasha L. Williams is a second-year PhD student at MSU from Melbourne, Florida. Her research topic is focused on improving the efficiency of rotary screw compressors. She was interested in the program due to the learning opportunities offered through hands-on training and being surrounded by so many other individuals excelling in the field. “I think it will help catapult and put me in connection with the right people, while also preparing me to fill the role,” Williams said about how the program may impact her career.

Duncan Kroll is a first-year graduate student from Michigan pursuing engineering research and development or design. He joined the program for the training opportunities and career impacts. “It is an opportunity to work at a world-class facility, on important projects, with very knowledgeable people.  As a resume builder, that’s about as good as it gets,” Kroll said. “I think the greatest benefit to my career will be the opportunity to work at such a cutting-edge facility as FRIB.”

Cryogenic Initiative leaders will continue to collaborate with MSU’s mechanical engineering department to recruit students by exposing them to the unique opportunities that FRIB has to offer. It will also develop curriculum and courses for graduate and undergraduate students. Ganni, Knudsen, and Hasan plan to also continue mentoring and training students already involved in the program. They will serve as dissertation/thesis advisors and co-advisors. With the help of the cryogenics department staff, they will expose students to FRIB’s systems and equipment. Students will also participate in the development of FRIB’s new cryogenic facilities. 

Read more about the MSU Cryogenic Initiative at

Accelerator Science and Engineering Traineeship

ASET addresses a national shortage in accelerator scientists and engineers. It leverages unique campus-based equipment, systems, and experts at FRIB and NSCL, extensive ASET faculty and research support in the MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy and the College of Engineering, and resources at U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories.

The program addresses four major areas where there are critical workforce needs:

  • Physics and engineering of large accelerators
  • Superconducting radio frequency accelerator physics and engineering
  • Radio frequency power engineering
  • Large-scale cryogenic systems

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) Office of High Energy Physics (OHEP) awarded MSU a $990,000 accelerator science and engineering traineeship grant to develop the program.

More than 20 faculty members from participating MSU academic programs and over 30 additional PhD accelerators scientists and engineers will mentor ASET program participants. Currently eleven students are enrolled in the program, and six are enrolled in the fall 2018 semester. Current students say they were drawn to the program for the opportunities it presents.

Michael Balcewicz from Aliso Viejo, California, is pursuing a PhD in physics at MSU. His research involves square wells, which can be used to study and better understand what physical parameters create instabilities in a beam. He enrolled in ASET in part for its career benefits. “What interested most me about the ASET program was ability to work in a national laboratory and work on cutting edge research there.” He aims to work at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and is interested in Brookhaven’s possible upgrade to its high energy electron-ion collider and light-source work at the National Synchrotron Light Source II.

Crispin Contreras, originally from San Francisco de la Cruz, Guanajuato México, and Reading, Pennsylvania, is pursuing a PhD in physics at MSU, studying the electromagnetic and mechanical properties of medium beta superconducting elliptical cavities as his research topic. Through ASET, he is continuing his research at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which provides unique opportunities to advance his education and career. “Staying at Fermilab is essential for my thesis project since my collaborators have a lot of experience working with resonance control.” With the research results obtained at Fermilab, he intends to present his work to scientists at several international conferences.

There are several second-year goals to help enhance the program and provide additional benefits to students. One or two students will be recruited from the admitted pool of NSCL/FRIB students. Courses will be added to the program including a new Physics 862 course (accelerator systems) in fall 2018 and a new electrical and computer engineering course (power engineering) in spring 2019. New cryogenics courses in mechanical engineering will be added as well.