Student theses and testimonials: Accelerator Science and Engineering Traineeship

See the extraordinary work Michigan State University students conduct at FRIB

Graduate students in Michigan State University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy as well as the College of Engineering can train at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), a world-class research and teaching center for nuclear science.

Best nuclear physics programs

Within FRIB, the Accelerator Science and Engineering Traineeship (ASET) program prepares students to work on groundbreaking research in cryogenics, accelerator, and superconducting radio frequency sciences and technology. These scholars—many of whom subsequently work in national laboratories—gain hands-on, practical training using the world’s most powerful rare isotope accelerator at FRIB.

Developed with expert Michigan State University faculty, a typical academic thesis in the ASET program is designed to improve areas of accelerator science and technology, but may also include advances for areas such as medicine, homeland security, and more.

The ASET academic thesis at Michigan State University

In FRIB’s ASET program, master’s and PhD level candidates work within a research group or on a specific project as part of their academic thesis. Through the curriculum, students are pushed to think differently about complex problems—all while being supported by renowned faculty in one of the most prestigious U.S. nuclear physics graduate programs.

All student research is possible because of the technology available at FRIB.

Academic thesis: Real-world examples from ASET participants

What students are saying about FRIB’s ASET program

The opportunities available to students in the ASET program are supported by a history of success:

  • MSU’s nuclear physics graduate program has been a top-ranked program nationally for 29 years, according to U.S. News & World Report.
  • MSU awards 15 percent of the nation’s nuclear physics PhDs annually.
  • The Carnegie Foundation classified MSU as an institution with very high research activity, one of only 146 nationwide.

See what Michigan State University students are saying about the research and discoveries they’re making in FRIB’s ASET program.

Below are testimonials from some of the program’s current and former students.

Scott Anthony

Scott AnthonyScott Anthony is majoring in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University. He is assisting with the mechanical engineering of the FRIB cryogenic systems. His advisors are Abraham Engeda, a professor of mechanical engineering from the MSU College of Engineering, and Nusair Hasan, senior cryogenics engineer at FRIB. Scott joined the ASET program in spring 2021.

What are your research responsibilities? 
When I was awarded an interview at the lab during my sophomore year, I learned about cryogenics and the MSU Cryogenic Initiative, and I instantly knew the initiative was something I wanted to be a part of. Additionally, cryogenics is a unique and interesting field that I am eager to learn more about, especially from leaders in the field and all of those associated with the ASET program and the MSU Cryogenic Initiative.

How will participating in the ASET program will benefit your career?
I have gained experience working under deadlines and working under pressure. Working closely with engineers has also taught me how engineers work, plan, and perform tasks. These experiences will continue to benefit my career as an engineer.

Where are you in the program so far, and what has been the most rewarding part of it?
I am a junior mechanical engineering student at Michigan State University. My position in the program so far is applying what I learn in class to matters that occur at FRIB, working with SolidWorks, learning how to read and develop piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), learning different equipment and parts, as well as learning about what it takes to work for a world-class laboratory. The best part is learning about aspects of engineering and running a lab that I would otherwise not have the opportunity to do. So far, I have enjoyed learning how to read and write P&IDs as well as how to carry out a pneumatic pressure test. Continuing to learn and meet people at FRIB has been the most rewarding aspect of the ASET program.

Would you recommend ASET to other students? Why?
I would highly recommend this program to other students who are serious about their studies and who are eager to learn about cryogenics, a subject that is otherwise not taught in class. You will gain many experiences during your time in the ASET program that will apply to the private sector, as well as experiences you will only gain by working for a world-class laboratory like FRIB. If the ASET program is something you want to be a part of, do not hesitate to apply. 


Cristhian Gonzalez-Ortiz

Cristhian Gonzalez-Ortiz

Cristhian Gonzalez-Ortiz is a PhD student from Bogota, Colombia, pursuing a degree in physics at Michigan State University. Professor of Physics Peter Ostroumov serves as his advisor. For his research topic, he is studying storage rings for low-energy radioactive isotope beams. Cristhian joined the ASET program in fall 2019.

What are your research responsibilities?
I am looking into the main subsystems that compose a low-energy storage ring. Specifically, I am performing particle-tracking simulations focusing on the mass separation capabilities of such rings. Additionally, I am trying to estimate the operation conditions for the electron cooling system of such a ring. The end goal is to look at the feasibility and usability of building a low-energy heavy-ion storage ring at FRIB. 

What interested you about the ASET program?
I think accelerator sciences is the intersection between fundamental physics and applied physics. It’s right there, in that sweet spot, where I find physics the most exciting and interesting. MSU’s ASET program gives me the proper tools to contribute to and succeed in this field of physics.

How will participating in the ASET program benefit your career?
Michigan State University’s ASET program allows me to immerse successfully in the accelerator science world. All of the courses taught under this program allow me to build my theoretical knowledge and the intuition for the physical processes in question. The ASET program is also helping me build the right connections to make meaningful contributions to the field.

What career path do you plan to pursue?
Right now, my career plan is to graduate with my PhD and join a national laboratory as a research associate to put my fresh skills to work. Down the road, I would like to join a university as an associate professor.

At which laboratory are you interested in furthering your training, and what are your research interests there?
I am interested in furthering my training at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where I can contribute to the development of the EIC (Electron Ion Collider)—the next big project in American physics.

Would you recommend ASET to other students? Why?
I would definitely recommend the ASET program to other students because the people running it want you to succeed. Faculty in charge of the ASET program will not only help you develop the theoretical and practical skills for accelerator sciences, but they will also acknowledge you as an important piece of this field’s future. For me, that is very important.


Jonathon Howard

Jonathon Howard

Jonathon Howard is a PhD student advised by Professor of Engineering Abraham Engeda and FRIB Senior Cryogenics Engineer Nusair Hasan. He is researching cryogenic turbomachinery. Jonathon joined the ASET program in spring 2019.

What are your research responsibilities?
My current research involves the development of a compressor impeller design and performance prediction code. The goal of this research is to create a robust code that can be utilized in the design of compressors found in sub-atmosphere cryogenic helium systems.

What interested you about the ASET program?
During my undergraduate studies, I was interested in aeronautics/aerospace and found myself looking for opportunities to further my education in a manner that could translate to a position in those fields. My interests made the ASET program very desirable, as I could use the knowledge learned from the cryogenic and turbomachinery departments to achieve my career goals.

How will participating in the ASET program benefit your career?
The ASET program at Michigan State University involves working at a world-class facility that employs many leaders in physics and engineering. The amount of knowledge that can be learned from working at FRIB would have a large impact on anyone who is prepared to learn and willing to work hard. I believe the knowledge and experience that I gain during my time in the ASET program will be very beneficial in the pursuit of my future career.

What career path do you plan to pursue?
The career path that I am most interested in pursuing is working in the aeronautical or aerospace industry. I am also interested in working as a process engineer at a cryogenic or power plant.

Would you recommend ASET to other students? Why?
Yes, I would highly recommend the ASET program to other students. It isn’t often that a graduate student would have the opportunity to be involved in the construction of a world-class accelerator facility. Working at FRIB allows insight into the process of creating the entire system involved with the accelerator and would be very valuable to any student interested in going into a career associated with accelerators or accelerator support systems.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experience with MSU’s ASET program?
The integration of the College of Engineering and FRIB has been beneficial, with the addition of classes that introduce engineering students to the technologies utilized at FRIB. I hope to see new engineering students joining the program in the future.


Duncan Kroll

Duncan Kroll

Duncan Kroll is a PhD student pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University. His advisors are Abraham Engeda, a professor of mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, and Nusair Hasan, senior cryogenics engineer at FRIB. For his research, he is attempting to characterize the deposition of frost onto heat exchanger surfaces from helium. Duncan joined the ASET program in fall 2018.

What are your research responsibilities?
My research responsibilities have included process design and optimization of a helium purifier (which I designed mechanically for my master’s degree), characterizing frost collection from a stream of air or helium, as well as modeling, measuring, and evaluating data for various aspects regarding the operation of the FRIB. These include partial load operation of turbines and compressors, purifier water and air capacity, and purifier liquid nitrogen and helium usage.

How will participating in the ASET program benefit your career?
It will give me the opportunity to make a lot of connections and work at a world-class facility. My initial interest came from funding opportunities for master’s students at FRIB and a referral from a mentor, but I have been interested in accelerator science ever since I toured NSCL [FRIB’s predecessor] with my high-school chemistry class.

Read testimonials from past ASET students.

Get started in the ASET program at FRIB

FRIB’s ASET program, for actively registered graduate students pursuing a PhD or master’s degree at Michigan State University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy or the College of Engineering; and FRIB’s graduate fellowships, for qualified U.S. graduate students who wish to carry out their thesis research at FRIB, are open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Questions? Please visit our FRIB graduate studies page.

Support for several kinds of graduate fellowships in ASET are provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) Office of High Energy Physics, DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics, and the National Science Foundation.

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