DOE grants enable FRIB graduate students to conduct doctoral thesis research at national laboratories

22 November 2022

Fourth-year Michigan State University (MSU) physics graduate student Cristhian Gonzalez-Ortiz has landed in the ideal place for doing his doctoral thesis research: Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL). 

Gonzalez-Ortiz had begun his research on suppression of resonances occurring in circular accelerators at FRIB in 2021 when he learned of an opportunity to further his studies at FNAL. That fall, with support from a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant, he was able to move his work to the accelerator complex at the national laboratory.

Gonzalez-Ortiz was studying under the support of FRIB’s Accelerator Science and Engineering Traineeship (ASET) program, which is part of MSU’s top-ranked nuclear physics graduate program. Partnering academic programs at MSU include the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the College of Engineering.

Studying in the ASET program was Gonzalez-Ortiz’s connection to the opportunity at FNAL. He is one of several graduate students who have been able to be embedded at national laboratories as part of ASET.

Started in 2017, the ASET program is an important conduit for recruiting talented students and placing them in traineeships at national laboratories, according to Peter Ostroumov, Gonzalez-Ortiz’s adviser and associate director for accelerator physics at MSU.

Gonzalez-Ortiz’s research at FNAL is supported by a DOE grant based on a proposal to study suppression of resonances that he wrote under the guidance of Ostroumov and his co-advisor at FNAL Dr. Robert Ainsworth.

“Cristhian’s appointment is well aligned with the ASET mission to place students in national laboratories to complete the highest level of studies,” said Ostroumov. “Fermilab is the leading lab in advanced research in accelerator science and engineering supported by the High Energy Physics Office in DOE.”

The experience has been valuable in more ways than one for Gonzalez-Ortiz.

“Being at Fermilab has opened my perspective on what life as a physicist is beyond a university level,” he said. “Being here has given me a lot of experience in accelerator physics and what it is to work at a national laboratory. This will help me as I continue to grow my career as a scientist. I've also made a lot of good connections that will be helpful in the future.”

About the Accelerator Science and Engineering Traineeship program

The ASET program leverages unique campus-based equipment, systems, and experts at FRIB; extensive ASET faculty and research supports in several MSU academic programs; and collaboration resources at national laboratories including Brookhaven National Laboratory, FNAL, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The program supports graduate students in their studies for up to two years.

Offering a unique training opportunity for master’s and PhD students in accelerator physics and accelerator engineering, the ASET program’s mission is to recruit students, provide training in accelerator science and engineering, and place them in national laboratories for further training and thesis research.

ASET students are trained and mentored by more than 20 MSU faculty members in addition to more than 30 PhD scientists and engineers working in ASET areas at FRIB.

Those interested in ASET must go through the appropriate academic department. The following application sites:

Michigan State University (MSU) operates the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) as a user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC), supporting the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics. Hosting what is designed to be the most powerful heavy-ion accelerator, FRIB enables scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes in order to better understand the physics of nuclei, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security and industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of today’s most pressing challenges. For more information, visit