Exotic nuclei with large neutron-to-proton ratios are very unstable and only survive for a few seconds (or less) after creation. Studying their radioactive decay properties can tell us a lot about them. Until recently, the only places in the Universe these exotic nuclei were made was exploding stars and neutron-star mergers. However, new facilities around the world allow us to study them experimentally in the laboratory.
The overall research program is mainly focused on understand how the protons and neutrons in exotic nuclei arrange themselves, and how this influences their radioactive decay properties. By studying the high-energy photons (gamma rays) emitted from a nucleus, we can measure its fundamental properties such as the decay half-life, its shape (is it like a soccer ball, rugby ball, pear, something more complicated?), and excited states that can exist. These details are essential for improving our basic understanding of atomic nuclei, production of the elements in stars, and safety in nuclear power plants.
Students working on this project will learn about the tools of the trade of gamma-ray spectroscopy by analysing data from a set of experiments that we have performed at Argonne National Laboratory in the US. Projects can easily be tailored to suit the student’s level of experience, interests, and desired learning outcomes. Our students are also encouraged to contribute to the local research activities at the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility. We are happy to answer any questions you might have, and we’re keen to welcome new students into our research group.
No specific background knowledge is required, the best way to learn is by ‘doing’. This project will suit students who are curious about nuclear physics and enjoy solving puzzles.