2023 FRIB Visiting Scholar Program for Experimental Science names award winners

Moshe Friedman from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, AJ Mitchell from the Australian National University in Australia, and Shuya Ota from Brookhaven National Laboratory are the award recipients for the 2023 Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) Visiting Scholar Program for Experimental Science. They received their awards for their outstanding record and potential impact on the FRIB science program.

FRIB initiated the FRIB Visiting Scholar Program for Experimental Science in 2016. The goal of the program is to encourage and help junior researchers to establish a research program at FRIB. The award supports short-term stays at FRIB for junior/non-tenured faculty or staff members. The award includes a stipend to support travel to FRIB and for establishment of a research program at FRIB.

Moshe Friedman

Friedman’s current research focuses on the measurements of beta-decayed charged-particle emission for the studies of novae and x-ray bursts. While the ability to understand those events is limited by the lack of comprehensive nuclear data on proton-rich nuclei, he has been involved in constructing and upgrading the Gaseous Detector with Germanium Tagging (GADGET) system. GADGET measures levels in nuclei crucial to the understanding of nucleosynthesis and energy generation in novae and x-ray bursts.

“Our experiments with GADGET allowed us to understand better the destruction rates of specific sodium and phosphorus isotopes in nova explosions,” Friedman said. “Those isotopes are considered important markers of oxygen-neon novae.”

Friedman said FRIB has the capability of producing unprecedented rates of low-mass proton-rich nuclei.

“This allows a complete understanding of this region of the nuclear chart, and, consequently, the nuclear physics of stellar thermonuclear explosions,” Friedman said. “The opportunity to conduct research in FRIB at the forefront of modern nuclear physics is a great boost for establishing a successful, long-term research program at the Hebrew University.”

Friedman received a PhD in nuclear physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently a senior lecturer at Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics. He spent three years as a research associate at MSU’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory before joining Hebrew University as a postdoctoral fellow.

AJ Mitchell

Mitchell’s current research focuses on understanding the structure of atomic nuclei. He is interested in the evolution of the Nuclear Shell Model near and far from stability, and in the microscopic origins of phenomena such as the nuclear shape phase transitions in rare-earth and refractory elements. Mitchell’s research also investigates nuclear-structure properties that are relevant to exotic nuclear processes, such as neutrinoless double-beta decay, applications of nuclear science, and development of advanced nuclear instrumentation techniques.

“I use different experimental approaches to learn about excited states that exist in atomic nuclei, measuring properties such as their level energies, lifetimes and radioactive decay pathways,” Mitchell said. “This is a key aspect of understanding their behavior and providing important benchmarks for the latest developments in nuclear theory.”

Mitchell said that he is excited about the experiments he can perform at FRIB. “My research-led education benefits society by helping to create and sustain a nuclear-technology-ready workforce in Australia and developing nations across the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “FRIB experiments will provide exciting opportunities for my students to learn about nuclear science at the leading edge.”

Mitchell received a PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Manchester. He is currently a senior lecturer at the Australian National University in the Department of Nuclear Physics and Accelerator Applications.

Shuya Ota

Ota’s current research focuses on nuclear and stellar astrophysics, nuclear structure of halo nuclei, nuclear data, and development of radiation detector equipment. He is currently interested in working with FRIB’s Modular Neutron Array and Large Multi-Institutional Scintillator Array (MoNA-LISA) to study exotic neutron-halo nuclei near the drip line.

“Studying the physics of exotic nuclei with experimental data leads to understanding how nucleons combine to form atomic nuclei and ultimately can contribute to various research fields such as astrophysics, nuclear energy, and other applied nuclear sciences,” Ota said. “Observing something that could have never been observed is always exciting in itself, and discoveries from our work can benefit society with intellectual excitement.”

Ota said FRIB makes it a reality to investigate exotic nuclei experimentally that have been unreachable. “FRIB can benefit my research interest, which is to study atomic nuclei as far from stability in the nuclear chart as we can,” he said.

Ota received a PhD in experimental astrophysics from Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. He is currently an assistant scientist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. He is a member of the Physical Society of Japan and the American Physical Society.

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. User facility operation is supported by the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics as one of 28 DOE-SC user facilities.

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 energy.gov/science.