National Superconducting
Cyclotron Laboratory

Hendrik Schatz
Hendrik Schatz
JINA Department Head
Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics
PhD, Physics, University of Heidelberg 1997
Joined NSCL in December 1999
Phone (517) 908-7397
Fax (517) 353-5967
Office 2006
schatz at

Hendrik Schatz

Professional Homepage

Research Group

The goal of our experimental and theoretical research program is to understand the nuclear processes that shape the cosmos. To that end, we take advantage of the capabilities of NSCL, FRIB, and other laboratories  to  produce  the  same exotic isotopes that are created in extreme astrophysical environments such as supernovae, hydrogen explosions on neutron stars and white dwarfs, or the crusts of neutron stars. By measuring the properties of these very short lived isotopes we can address questions such as: What is the origin of the heavy elements in nature? What role do neutron star mergers and supernovae play? What powers the frequently observed x-ray bursts and what do observations tell us about neutron stars? What are the processes in the crusts of neutron stars that convert ordinary nuclei into exotic isotopes? Why do these processes generate not enough heat to explain observations?

We address these questions by carrying out different types of experiments using a broad range of detector systems and beam energies to restage astrophysical processes in the laboratory. These include decay station systems for beta and neutron detection, the GRETA/GRETINA and SuN gamma-ray detectors, the S800 spectrometer, the HABANERO neutron detector, the JENSA gas jet target, and the SECAR recoil separator developed in our group. We are particularly excited about the opportunities at FRIB for which the field (and us) have waited for a long time and that promise to address many astrophysical questions. Instruments like SECAR will enable us to measure directly the nuclear reactions occurring inside stars.

Our group emphasizes a flexible and comprehensive approach to research that is driven by the goal to understand a specific open question and cuts across disciplines and boundaries between theory and experiment. Therefore students have opportunities for major experimental equipment development, use of a broad range of existing equipment, data analysis, converting results in astrophysically usable data, carrying out astrophysical model calculations, and comparing results to observations. While there is a lot of flexibility to follow individual interests most students will get involved in several (or even all) of these aspects during their PhD work. To that end, our group has a number of astrophysical model codes available, works closely with the MSU astronomy group, and is part of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA) and the international research network IReNA that collaboratively connect our group with a broad range of other experimentalists, theorists, astrophysical modelers, and observers across the world.

JINA and IReNA provide national and international networking opportunities, including opportunities for research stays and exchanges (for example to work on a particular interpretation of experimental results), visits, and for becoming part of a broader community of students from different institutions, fields, and countries.

Our goal is to create an environment where all students can be successful, can follow their interests, and get prepared for a broad range of careers in industry, national laboratories, academia, or nuclear astrophysics. We fully support and follow the NSCL and Physics Department code of conduct, as well as the newly developed JINA-CEE code of conduct.

I encourage prospective students to directly contact any group members, or myself with any questions. The easiest way to get a hold of me is via e-mail.

Accreting neutron star

Artist’s view of a neutron star that accretes matter from a companion. The accretion leads to explosions that are powered by nuclear reactions involving rare isotopes. Our goal is to understand these reactions well enough so we can extract information about neutron stars from space based X-ray observations.