MSU leads new NSF-funded international nuclear astrophysics research network

07 November 2019

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $2 million grant to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics - Center for the Evolution of the Elements (JINA-CEE), led by Michigan State University (MSU), to create a new international network of networks for nuclear astrophysics research.

JINA-CEE is a multi-institutional NSF Physics Frontiers Center dedicated to interdisciplinary research at the interface of nuclear physics and astrophysics. It was initiated under the leadership of Notre Dame University and is now managed by MSU. JINA-CEE pioneered a network approach to nuclear astrophysics. It connects expertise in nuclear experiment, nuclear theory, observations, and astrophysics to advance the understanding of the origin of the elements that make up the world, and the properties of matter under extreme temperature and density conditions.

The newly created International Research Network for Nuclear Astrophysics (IReNA) will connect JINA-CEE with five similar research collaborations in Europe (Chemical Elements as Tracers of the Evolution of the Cosmos (ChETEC) across Europe, and the ExtreMe Matter Institute (EMMI) and the Collaborative Research Centre “The Milky Way System” – both in Germany), Japan (Japan Forum of Nuclear Astrophysics/UKAKUREN), and the international Nucleosynthesis Grid collaboration (NuGRID).

IReNA is composed of seven core institutions: Arizona State University, Central Michigan University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MSU, North Carolina State University, University of Notre Dame and University of Washington. It also includes 62 associated institutions in 17 countries. The combined infrastructure and research capabilities available to IReNA scientists will accelerate the understanding of the origin of chemical elements and the nature of dense nuclear matter.

In the current age of multimessenger astronomy, extreme astrophysical environments like supernovae and neutron star mergers are studied through gravitational waves, visible light, infrared, X-rays, gamma-rays, radio waves and neutrinos. IReNA comes as a timely boost for the nuclear astrophysics community. The amount and range of nuclear and astrophysics data and expertise needed to answer open questions about the universe cannot be obtained by a single country. IReNA creates the necessary communication channels and collaborative structures. Together, IReNA scientists will have access to a variety of accelerators, astronomical observatories, experimental equipment, data, and computer codes.

IReNA will also create exchange programs, innovative workshops, and retreats that will foster network communication and training of the next generation of scientists.

“This is an innovative approach to science. It is also a unique opportunity for young researchers to train across disciplines, and gives them experience working with large teams.” said Hendrik Schatz, JINA-CEE and IReNA director.

The NSF grant is part of the Accelerating Research through International Network-to-Network Collaborations (AccelNet) program. AccelNet is designed to accelerate the process of scientific discovery and prepare the next generation of U.S. researchers for multiteam international collaborations. The AccelNet program supports strategic linkages among U.S. research networks and complementary networks abroad that will leverage research and educational resources to tackle grand scientific challenges that require significant coordinated international efforts.

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