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Physics Professor Receives Early Career Research Award from Department of Energy


By Sarah Geegan

chris crawfordChristopher Crawford, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, recently received a prestigious five-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's 2012 Early Career Research Program.

The program supports the development of individual research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulates research careers in the disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science. Crawford's award will allow him to study the forces that hold the atomic nucleus together and that cause nuclear decays.

"I study symmetries of these forces," Crawford said. "There are certain properties of neutron postulated, such as an electric dipole moment (EDM), which are incompatible with symmetries included in standard model of nuclear forces. I collaborate on experiments that are designed to measure these properties and discover new extensions to our current understanding."

One of Crawford's projects involves developing precision magnets for an EDM experiment.

"We developed a new technique to design coils with wire windings specified by the solution of a differential equation," Crawford said. "In order to physically construct these coils with the accuracy of .001of an inch, the University of Kentucky purchased a 5 -foot-long robotic arm." 

Part of the grant supports graduate and undergraduate students in Crawford's lab to program the robot to create specialty magnets.

Crawford will conduct his experiments at the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. 

"It is incredible to have access to state-of-the art facilities at the national lab so close to home," Crawford said.

He credits the University Office of Research and Department of Physics and Astronomy for playing a huge role in his receiving the award.

"I'm glad I will have the opportunity to focus on this research with fellow students and colleagues," Crawford said.