NSF awards MSU $122.5 million for operation of cyclotron laboratory

Published: Dec. 1, 2016 by MSU Today

Contact(s): Tom Oswald , Brad Sherrill

A cooperative agreement between Michigan State University and the National Science Foundation will result in up to $122.5 million in continued funding over five years for the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

The agreement will fund forefront research in nuclear and accelerator science and continue operation of NSCL as one of the world’s flagship nuclear science research facilities.

“We are extremely happy and grateful. This cooperative agreement from the NSF allows us to continue enabling cutting-edge scientific research into the nature and origin of atomic nuclei,” said Brad Sherrill, University Distinguished Professor of physics and NSCL director. “We are excited about what this means for our users.”

The Physics Division of the National Science Foundation has supported NSCL operation at MSU since the mid-1980s. The new funding will cover the period until the under-construction Facility for Rare Isotope Beams becomes operational, which is expected to be in 2021.

“It is incredibly important to both the nation’s leadership in nuclear science and to our scientific user community that rare isotope research continue in a strong way at NSCL” said Thomas Glasmacher, University Distinguished Professor of physics and FRIB laboratory director.

An NSF-funded national user facility, the laboratory provides beams of rare isotopes (short-lived versions of the elements not normally found on Earth) for basic research into the origin and structure of atomic nuclei. Rare isotopes have potential applications in areas such as health care and homeland security.

In addition to continuing to fund the operations of NSCL cyclotrons, the agreement also will provide funding to operate a newly built, smaller linear accelerator that will allow researchers to “re-accelerate” rare isotopes.

“Some experiments that scientists want to do require very precise energy of the rare isotope beam, at an energy lower than we can deliver,” Sherrill said. “This new, smaller accelerator will open a whole new window into how, for example, atomic nuclei interact in stars.”

As the nation’s major user facility providing beams of rare isotopes for nuclear science, NSCL provides unique, hands-on learning opportunities for the next generation of nuclear scientists. Approximately 10 percent of all nuclear science Ph.D.s awarded in the United States are based on research carried out at NSCL.

In addition, more than 100 undergraduate students are actively involved in research at NSCL every year.