2 Physics and Astronomy Grad Students Selected for DOE Graduate Student Research Program

By Jenny Wells-Hosley Tuesday

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 13, 2020) — Two University of Kentucky students have been named to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program.

Jared Brewington and Michelle Gervais, both doctoral students in the UK College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy, are two of 52 total students selected to join the program. They will conduct part of their doctoral thesis research at host laboratories in collaboration with a Departent of Energy scientist.

Brewington will study magnetic field design for the Los Alamos National Laboratory neutron electric dipole moment experiment, or LANL-nEDM, for short. He will begin his yearlong project at LANL in New Mexico this November.

“Up to this point, I have designed a system of magnet coils, which will provide the magnetic field for the experiment,” Brewington said. “I use computer simulations to test the proficiency of the coil design. My research group at UK — Dr. Brad Plaster's group — has completed initial prototyping stages for the coil designs in our Chem-Phys lab.”

Brewington said he will be directly involved in building the experiment he has been working on for nearly four years, as the LANL-nEDM experiment is scheduled to start test runs at the end of 2021.

“My presence at LANL gives me the opportunity to complete the final stages of my Ph.D. thesis research — construction, characterization and implementation of the magnet coils.”

Gervais will work with both the Nab Experiment and nEDM collaboration at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee for the 2021 calendar year. She says working with and learning from the scientists at Oak Ridge will enhance her research and thesis work.

“I will be designing and building a source positioner that will allow us to maneuver a radioactive source, under vacuum, in front of our detector,” Gervais said. “This allows for testing of the detector. I will then program our data acquisition (DAQ) system to accept the output of this detector. I will then adapt this DAQ for the nEDM experiment.”

The research projects are expected to advance the graduate awardees’ overall doctoral research and training while providing access to the expertise, resources and capabilities available at the Energy Department's laboratories

“These graduate student awards help prepare new scientists for STEM careers that are vitally important to the DOE mission and the nation’s economy,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “We are proud of the accomplishments of these outstanding awardees and look forward to seeing what they achieve in the years to come. They represent the future leadership and innovation that will allow American science and engineering to excel in the 21st century.”

Awardees were selected from a diverse pool of university-based graduate applicants. Selection was based on merit peer review by external scientific experts. 

A list of the 52 awardees, their institutions, host DOE laboratory/facility and priority research areas of projects can be found here. More information on SCGSR can be found here.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


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