New global research effort includes CMU physics faculty

Students will have opportunities to work side by side with scientists in 17 countries

| Author: Gary H. Piatek

​Central Michigan University physics faculty members are part of a newly created worldwide network of research institutions working to understand the origin of the elements and matter that make up our universe.

The new International Research Network for Nuclear Astrophysics, dubbed IReNA, is made up of seven core research institutions in the United States and 62 associated institutions in 17 countries. The seven core universities, in addition to Central, are Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, University of Notre Dame and University of Washington.

"We will now be able to do research that is only possible by collaborating with international partners who are the experts in very specialized areas," said CMU physics faculty member Alfredo Estrade, who is part of the IReNA steering committee. Fellow physics faculty member Georgios Perdikakis is an initial participant in the budding CMU group.

"This also will create great opportunities for our students to visit laboratories around the world, work with those top scientists and learn new techniques," Estrade said, noting members' expertise in such areas as nuclear reactions, formation of heavy elements, computer modeling, dense matter and astronomy.

"This type of experience provides our CMU students with a competitive edge when they enter the job market." — Christopher Tycner, physics department chair

To encourage student training and involvement, IReNA will create workshops, retreats and exchange programs.

Being able to do the research in the most appropriate laboratory with the proper equipment is key to learning, Estrade said.

"To have a good research experience, especially with new collaborations, it is best to work side by side. You learn together and become closer as scientists."

"This collaboration is a huge positive step for not only the physics department and its students, but for the university as a whole," said Christopher Tycner, department chair.

"Employers expect our students to be able to work effectively across national borders after graduation, and this type of experience provides our CMU students with a competitive edge when they enter the job market," Tycner added.

IReNA is being funded by a $2 million National Science Foundation grant to its creator, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics – Center for the Evolution of the Elements, or JINA-CEE.

It also is an NSF worldwide group of six interdisciplinary networks called AccelNett to advance science through collaborative research. Its other goal is to prepare student researchers for a broad range of STEM careers in a variety of disciplines.

A graphic from MSU and the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory represents connections among the IReNA institutions.
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