Summer Fellow Heads to FSU for Research Opportunity

While many of the Ursinus Summer Fellows are taking root in various labs and offices across campus this summer, physics major Jessica Nebel-Crosson ’21 is bringing her scientific research south to Florida State University.

Nebel-Crosson’s research goals are focused on helping further the scientific community’s understanding of the single neutron states in titanium isotopes, and eventually expanding additional comprehension of the basic interactions that lead to nuclear behavior and structure of exotic nuclei as a whole.

She’s working in Florida State’s John D. Fox Superconducting Linear Accelerator Laboratory with three other undergraduate researchers from other institutions, in addition to her primary project, she will be helping the gamma-ray spectroscopy group with the CLOVER detector array.

Nebel-Crosson explained the collaborative research in her own words, sharing, “The idea is for me to collect experimental data using the particle accelerator and split-pole magnetic spectrograph at the John D. Fox lab, where we would be sending a beam of hydrogen with an additional neutron—a deuterium—towards a target composed of titanium -50 with 22 protons and 28 neutrons.”

She will study a reaction in which the extra neutron in the deuterium is captured by the target, leaving the researchers with titanium -51 with 29 neutrons. She will look at the energy of the proton left over from the beam to deduce information about the neutron states in titanium -51.

The physics major shared her reasoning for being so interested in the topic, explaining, “Nothing could get me more excited when I was a kid than outer space. I wanted to know why and how it is the way that it is and to simply be able to look at all the wondrous things out there. There’s just something I find deeply satisfying about learning and discovering the secrets of the universe and I haven’t found anything since that gives me the drive to keep moving forward like physics does.”

She hopes that this experience will help her get a taste for what experimental research is like on a larger scale while also exposing her to different branches of physics that can be uncommon to come across in an undergraduate setting.

The academic connection between FSU and Ursinus began when Nebel-Crosson’s mentor, Lew Riley, a professor of physics, arrived at Ursinus in 2002. As an FSU graduate student, Riley completed part of his dissertation work there in the John D. Fox Accelerator Laboratory and another part at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University (NSCL).

Since he began teaching at Ursinus, 23 students have worked alongside Riley on projects at the NSCL while others have joined him in travelling to FSU as well as the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) where he has been involved in a detector simulation project of the GRETINA Gamma-ray Tracking Array.

“I have been extremely fortunate to have collaborators who are supportive of my work with students at a small liberal arts college,” Riley shared. —By Mary Lobo’15