Exploring the nuclear "glue"

Posted: December 4, 2014 4:00 p.m.

(L to R) Physics Professors Dr. Andrei Semenov, Dr. George Lolos and Dr. Zisis Papandreou work at Detector Development Lab at the University of Regina.
(L to R) Physics Professors Dr. Andrei Semenov, Dr. George Lolos and Dr. Zisis Papandreou work at Detector Development Lab at the University of Regina. Photo: U of R Photography

After 15 years of planning and preparation there is now a lot of action at an international research project at the Jefferson Lab Accelerator in Newport News, Virginia – and the University of Regina is participating.

“The project now is in the full-detector commissioning mode, using the ‘engineering beam’ data. This means electrons and photons are being ‘shot’ into the full detector,” explains Dr. Zisis Papandreou, a professor of Physics at the University of Regina.

Jefferson Lab conducts basic research of an atom’s nucleus, using the lab’s particle accelerator. GlueX – a key experiment in the field of nuclear physics – is a flagship experiment for Jefferson Lab. It’s undergone many international reviews and has been classified as having ‘discovery potential’ – meaning it has potential for a Nobel Prize.  

“After only a couple of weeks of running, our international collaboration has established most of the Key Performance Parameters, a major milestone in the project that has received much praise from all corners of the lab. The engineering runs will continue until Christmas and will be held again next April and May,” says Dr. Papandreou.

The University of Regina has been involved in research and development, and then construction, from 2001 to 2011. In all, about 60 people took part at the University of Regina, including undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, a research scientist and a construction manager. Since then, about 15 people from the University of Regina have been working on the installation at the Jefferson Lab, and more recently on commissioning the detector.
“We delivered the largest and most expensive detector subsystem, the electromagnetic barrel calorimeter a 25-ton detector made of lead and scintillating optical fibres built right here at the University of Regina,” explains Dr. Papandreou.  

This type of research is called ‘pure’ research – which is research aimed at greater knowledge or understanding, without specific applications or products in mind. But such research often leads to unexpected discoveries and, eventually, practical applications. For example, MRI imaging and price scanners at store checkouts were results that came about from pure research.
 
Papandreou was born in Estevan and graduated from the University of Regina with his PhD in 1989.

“I’m excited and proud to be a part of such an international effort with major potential impact. The University of Regina has been a great place to bring this project to success, and we have received support from our administration.  This is an excellent example of what can be accomplished at a university of our size.”

He says the participation is raising the profile of the University of Regina.

“That the University of Regina is one of the driving institutions and that we finished six months ahead of schedule was applauded and noted by the U.S. Department of Energy and by a U.S. Senator.  Our group – and as a result the University of Regina – has a stellar reputation in this area of nuclear physics.”