Winners of 2022 FRIB Achievement Award for Early Career Researchers named

The FRIB Users Organization Executive Committee and the FRIB Theory Alliance Executive Board have announced the winners of the 2022 FRIB Achievement Award for Early Career Researchers. Amy Lovell, from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), is the recipient of the 2022 theory award. Jaspreet Singh Randhawa, from the University of Notre Dame, is the recipient of the 2022 experimental award.

The FRIB Achievement Award for Early Career Researchers recognizes outstanding original contributions to the field of nuclear physics through work at or relating to FRIB, performed by scientists early in their careers.

The recipients will present their work during the plenary session at the annual Low Energy Community Meeting and receive a stipend to support their participation.

Amy Lovell

Lovell’s research focuses partially on Bayesian optimization and uncertainty quantification for optical model potentials, as well as propagation of uncertainties to reaction observables, which will soon be extended to other aspects of LANL-developed correlated fission models. She also utilizes machine-learning approaches to study fission-fragment mass yields, which are relevant to astrophysics and applied nuclear science. She has developed and applied methods to provide insights into shortcomings of present theoretical descriptions and guidance for planning future experiments.

Lovell said her uncertainty quantification work can help scientists understand what parts of the models are most uncertain and what type of data have the most impact on constraining the models. Additionally, she said there is still much about fission that is not understood, but the correlated fission modeling at LANL can allow scientists to study individual or groups of neutron-rich nuclei, even though comparisons are made to average properties measured by experiment. Fission modeling, in particular, is useful for stewardship science and non-proliferation applications. Results from Lovell’s fission models can become part of the Evaluated Nuclear Data Files (ENDF), which are then used by various application communities, where uncertainty quantification also plays an important role.

Lovell said the properties of neutron-rich nuclei that can be measured at FRIB are crucial for fission modeling—masses, level densities, gamma-ray energy levels and transitions. She said the production of these neutron-rich nuclei will also provide more data with which to build more modern optical potentials that are relevant for a wider range of the nuclear chart, leading to better predictions and analysis of reactions of interest.

“I'm really excited about the push out to more neutron-rich nuclei—properties of these nuclei will be useful in constructing and benchmarking the next-generation optical potentials and expanding our knowledge of fission fragments, which are crucial to this type of modeling,” said Lovell. “Additionally, I am looking forward to the High Rigidity Spectrometer coming online and the potential fission experiments that could be done with that detector, in combination with others that are already in use at the laboratory.”

Lovell earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and master’s and PhD degrees in physics from Michigan State University. She was a graduate student at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, during which time she was the recipient of the DOE NNSA Stewardship Science Graduate Fellowship. She is currently a staff scientist at LANL. Her work focuses on Bayesian optimization and uncertainty quantification for optical model potentials, as well as propagation of uncertainties to reaction observables.

Jaspreet Singh Randhawa

Randhawa’s research utilizes a diverse set of tools to understand the nuclear physics of outer layers of accreting neutron stars in the X-ray binaries. Randhawa’s efforts have resulted in multiple high-impact results such as the direct measurement of key astrophysical reactions using radioactive ion beams. Randhawa’s work has extended to theoretical studies to understand the impact of spallation on X-ray burst ashes and to the development of new experimental techniques with gas detectors that will be important tools for FRIB science.

FRIB will provide the most intense beams of many radioactive isotopes, and Randhawa said the combinations of these beams and the state-of-the-art targets/detectors at FRIB will help explore the uncharted territories in nuclear physics.

“FRIB will help us in answering the many of the outstanding questions in nuclear astrophysics,” said Randhawa. “Availability of new radioactive beams will enable us to study many nuclear reactions relevant to my research on the type-I X-ray bursts which were not possible before the FRIB-era.”

Randhawa earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Panjab University in India and a PhD in astronomy (with a focus on nuclear astrophysics) from Saint Mary's University in Canada. He was a graduate research assistant at TRIUMF in Canada. He is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Notre Dame. His work utilizes a diverse set of tools to understand the nuclear physics of outer layers of accreting neutron stars in the X-ray binaries.

Michigan State University (MSU) operates FRIB as a user facility for the Office of Nuclear Physics in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. Hosting what is designed to be the most powerful heavy-ion accelerator, FRIB will enable 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.

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