Grad Students Visit JLab

Monday, November 18, 2013

Continuing on with the developing tradition of visiting National Laboratories over Fall Break, last month 8 physics graduate students traveled to Newport News, Virginia, to explore the Thomas Jefferson National Acceleration Facility (Jefferson Lab). Jefferson Lab is a Department of Energy facility primarily focused on conducting fundamental research in nuclear physics, with additional programs in accelerator science, cryogenics, and free-electron lasers, to name a few.

The Duke Physics Department already holds important ties with Jefferson Lab, with Prof. Haiyan Gao’s group in medium energy physics conducting experiments and developing detectors for the lab’s Experimental Halls. Furthering these connections, graduate students from almost all years attended this trip, from younger students investigating research avenues at a national lab for the first time, to older students exploring the potential of being employed at one.

In the morning after the essential safety briefing, the students were shown the new Technology and Engineering Development Facility where superconducting radiofrequency instruments are constructed and tested. Subsequently the students toured some sections of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF). With the electron beam turned off during the construction phase of the 12 GeV upgrade project, the students were given the unique opportunity to go underground to see part of the ring (where the beam is accelerated) and Experimental Hall A (the largest of four experimental staging areas). Says Jon Mueller (entered ’09), “I really enjoyed touring the lab, especially seeing the ring and the Hall A spectrometers” (pictured above). The tour continued with an exploration of a few of the additional scientific programs that Jefferson Lab hosts. The graduate students saw the High-Performance Computing Center, the Medical Imaging Lab, and the Free-Electron Laser facility.

In addition to the students being exposed to innovative scientific and technological advances made at Jefferson Lab, they also had opportunity to meet with the managing scientists. Director Hugh Montgomery graciously set up an informal pizza lunch with some of his colleagues and Duke physics alumni to have a round-table discussion about anything the graduate students wished to know. “I was very impressed that the people at the top took time to talk to us about the organizational workings of JLab,” commented Sean Finch (entered ’09). “I also got to meet former Duke graduate students who are now staff at JLab. It was very inspiring to hear about their job progression and how specific graduate school experiences helped them with their job.”

Thank you to graduate student Anne Watson for writing and sharing this story.