Nuclear theory

Explore the potential of nuclear theory to understand the building blocks of the world

Theoretical nuclear science is a central area of research at FRIB at Michigan State University (MSU). Scientific researchers at FRIB use advanced mathematical models and cutting-edge technology to better understand and predict the structure, dynamics, and origins of visible matter in the universe. This work is helping to advance the understanding of nuclear reactions and the role of nuclei in astrophysical processes. Questions at the forefront of theoretical nuclear science include::

  • How are quarks and gluons confined within protons and neutrons?
  • How do protons and neutrons bind to form nuclei and what are the limits of stability?
  • How can we accurately predict complex nuclear reactions?
  • Why does emergent collective behavior appear in quantum many-body systems?
  • How and where were the chemical elements formed in the universe? 
  • What are the phases of nuclear matter under extreme conditions?  

Nuclear theory at FRIB

FRIB’s nuclear theory group has more than 60 members—including faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate students—who investigate many different research areas. In addition to collaborating with experimental colleagues at FRIB, they perform research on topics such as:

  • quantum chromodynamics
  • fundamental symmetries
  • physics beyond the Standard Model
  • nuclear forces
  • chiral symmetry
  • nuclear structure
  • nuclear reactions
  • nucleosynthesis
  • nuclear astrophysics
  • neutron stars
  • heavy ion collisions
  • strongly-interacting matter under extreme conditions
  • emergent phenomena such as superfluidity and collective behavior

FRIB Theory Alliance

The FRIB Theory Alliance (FRIB-TA) is a coalition of scientists from universities and national laboratories. FRIB-TA seeks to:

  • foster advancements in theory related to diverse areas of FRIB science;
  • optimize the coupling between theory and experiment; and
  • stimulate the field by creating permanent theory positions across the country, attracting young talent through the national FRIB Theory Fellow Program, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, and shepherding international initiatives.

To achieve these goals, the FRIB-TA organizes regular workshops, programs, and summer schools at FRIB and its partner institutions each year, providing ample opportunity for FRIB graduate students to learn about new developments and cultivate networks in the nuclear science community.

Theoretical nuclear science facility

Work with the world’s top nuclear science faculty and staff at FRIB. Under their guidance, graduate students investigate new technologies and algorithms in high-performance computing, machine learning, and quantum computing, and their impact on the most challenging problems of nuclear science. Their expertise and research areas offer a wide range of opportunities for students.

Read faculty profiles

Career opportunities in nuclear science

Many former students and postdoctoral researchers of the nuclear theory group have gone on to become prominent scientists at universities and laboratories in nuclear science, as well as leaders in many other fields of science, technology, finance, education, and industry.