Nuclear astrophysics

Explore the universe through nuclear astrophysics at the world’s leading rare isotope facility

Nuclear physics and astronomy are inextricably intertwined. Today’s astronomical discoveries are driving the frontiers of nuclear physics while the ever-increasing knowledge about nuclei simultaneously furthers progress in understanding the universe.

The start of a new era in astronomical observations and the simultaneous launch of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) make this an exciting time in nuclear astrophysics. Join this groundbreaking research area, make discoveries, and prepare for a thrilling career in science through the nuclear astrophysics program at Michigan State University.

Rare isotopes and nuclear matter play critical roles in the evolution of stars and other cosmic phenomena. Typically, the most relevant rare isotopes are largely out of reach for terrestrial experiments—until now.

FRIB provides access to most of the important rare isotopes involved in these astrophysical processes while allowing researchers to probe properties of nuclear matter in all its forms and unearth new information.

Nuclear astrophysics opportunities at FRIB

Nuclear astrophysics is the scientific discipline at the intersection of nuclear physics and astronomy. It seeks to answer fundamental questions about the universe, regarding everything from where chemical elements are made to the ways in which they evolve over cosmic time.

FRIB’s powerful capabilities forge tighter links between nuclear physics and astronomy while providing researchers from all career stages and backgrounds the space and equipment to take a deeper dive into their research.

Find answers to fundamental questions through groundbreaking research

What are the properties of neutron stars? What is the nature of matter at extreme temperatures and densities? How do neutron star mergers power gravitational wave emission and synthesize heavy elements? Delve into all of this and more at FRIB.

Break new ground participating in or leading research projects to prepare for a real-world career in science.

Work and learn in a world-class facility

Whether pursuing nuclear astrophysics at MSU or conducting research at FRIB, the laboratory gives access to the expertise, tools, and space needed to carry out the work.

FRIB is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) user facility—the only DOE-SC user facility of its kind housed on a university campus. It’s equipped with the latest and greatest technology—including what is designed to be the world’s most powerful heavy-ion accelerator.

Career outlook for nuclear astrophysics

Those who receive PhDs from MSU’s top-ranked nuclear physics graduate program enjoy a 100 percent job placement rate in a variety of roles throughout the industry.

Emissions across the gravitational, electromagnetic, and particle spectra have provided a wealth of data about the synthesis of the elements, stellar explosions, and neutron stars. The recently launched James Webb Space Telescope and the Rubin Observatory, to be completed in 2024, will continue to observe these events for decades to come.

Additionally, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has provided a new window into the physics of neutron stars through gravitational waves and will expand such capabilities in the future. Last but not least, neutrino experiments—such as Super-Kamiokande and DUNE—will scour the sky for neutrinos from core-collapse supernovae and other cosmic events.

This means research laboratories, universities, and other entities will need scientists and researchers who can continue this work and interpret future observations. It will require a solid background in nuclear astrophysics and special insights into the properties of rare isotopes—all of which can be gained while studying and researching at FRIB.

Through nuclear astrophysics research at MSU, graduates also acquire crucial skills such as data analysis, computational modeling, and scientific project management, all of which may be applied to a variety of rewarding careers in education and throughout the industry.

How to get started in nuclear astrophysics at FRIB

What is nuclear astrophysics all about at FRIB, and what steps are needed to explore it at MSU? Apply for the program through the MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The MSU departments affiliated with FRIB take a holistic approach to recruiting graduate students. While prior academic distinctions and research experiences are important, MSU also recognizes leadership, contributions to a diverse educational community, and personal circumstances.

Learn more about the MSU admissions and degree process.

For information regarding graduate student research at MSU, please reach out to the appropriate FRIB faculty member:

For general inquiries, please email

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