Earlier this year, undergraduates from nine different schools took part in a unique hands-on experience in nuclear physics. In most nuclear physics laboratories, it is difficult for graduate students to obtain time to use experimental facilities or to physically get their hands dirty. But at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, undergraduates got to build a new neutron detector for the lab and conduct experiments with it.

The device is called the Large multi-Institutional Scintellator Array or LISA for short. It consists of 144 detector modules that were built at the collaboration’s member schools and assembled at NSCL by undergraduate students and their professors. Now that it is up and running, a certain portion of laboratory experimental time will be dedicated to undergraduates using the new detector.

LISA is not the first detector that the lab has built in this manner. In 2002, the Modular Neutron Array – or MoNA for short – was completed by the same collaboration. The new detector was built in order to increase the area covered as well as the overall efficiency. While it may not be a masterpiece of da Vinci, Michigan’s MoNA-LISA is a work of art in its own right.

The funding for both projects came from the National Science Foundation. The schools involved in the construction of MoNA LISA are Michigan State University, Hope College, Florida State University, Indiana University – South Bend, Wabash College, Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Concordia College at Moorhead, Westmont College, Augustana College – Rock Island, Gettysburg College, Ohio Wesleyan University and Rhodes College.