|On Target (November & December 1996)|
Three scientists recently received more than $400,000 in grants to perform research at Jefferson Lab. Cynthia Keppel and Drew Weisenbeger both received National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, and Howard Fenker was awarded a U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (CRDF) grant.
Fenker worked on the proposal for the $50,000 CRDF grant in conjuction with
Amour Margarian of the Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia. The grant will
support the construction of experimental low pressure gaseous detectors
which will be used in the research of the effects of electron nuclear
collisions. The detectors will pick out collisions in which a hyper nucleus
is created. A hyper nucleus is a nucleus that has a strange particle, which
is a particle that possesses a quantum number called strangeness. The
quantum number is called strangeness because the particle exists for what
is considered, in the world of physics, to be an extremely long time. "In
all the experiments here, the first problem you encounter is identifying
which of the millions and millions of interactions that take place are
interesting, which ones will help you learn about the science that you
started this experiment for in the first place. These particular detectors
will help pick out the interesting events," said Fenker.
According to Fenker the majority of the money will support research at the Yerevan Institute, which is working in collaboration with Jefferson Lab on this, and several other, experiments. The remaining money will go to Jefferson Lab in order to purchase materials and supplies for the scientists at the Yerevan Institute. The Yerevan Institute has sent some of their scientists to the United States to work along side Jefferson Lab scientists in the application of the various experiments. Margarian is one of the scientists that was sent to the U.S. to work at Jefferson Lab, and it was during Margarian's time in this country that he and Fenker were teamed to draw up the proposal for the CRDF Grant.
"What Jefferson Lab gets out of this is the efforts of the Yerevan scientists that we wouldn't have received otherwise. They will do a lot more work at Jefferson Lab then they would have been able to do with out this funding," said Fenker.
Weisenberger, who worked to receive a $100,000 grant with the help of Margret Saha, a professor at The College of William and Mary, will also allocate the money he is receiving to the construction of a detector. Some money will also fund the employment of student interns who will assist Weisenberger in his research. The radiation detector Weisenberger is developing deals with the imaging of gene products in live animals. The detector will track the brain development of those animals from the embryo stage through adulthood. Currently if a neurologist wants to study a piece of genetic coding used in the development of a section of the brain, it would be necessary to kill the specimen being studied. Molecular Biology techniques would then be used to examine the specific genes. In order to study another stage of development, the process has to be started over again with a new specimen. In essence, this process is like taking still pictures of each stage, and there is no guarantee that one will be able to catch all of the stages one wants to see.
In Weisenberger's project, a detector system that involves two detectors, positioned from different angles above the specimen being studied will be used. The detectors will be used simultaneously in a rotating, scanning motion that will allow three dimensional views and projections to be acquired. "This technique is similar to medical methods used in researching breast cancer. It will allow us to study gene activation patterns without killing the specimen, so now we can study the entire growth of the brain without interruption," said Weisenberger. This process would be more like recording the growth process with a video cassette recorder.
Saha, who is a neural biologist, played a pivotal role in the induction of the experiment's proposal to the NSF. In fact, it was she who was informed of the availability of the NSF Grant and suggested to Weisenberger that he draw up a proposal and submit it. Weisenberger is studying for his doctorate in Applied Science at the College of William and Mary, and much of the expertise needed to perform the research comes from the professors and staff at the college.
Keppel was awarded $297,391 and plans to use the money to support two Hampton University graduate students who are interns at Jefferson Lab; to purchase computers and software for New Kent Middle School in New Kent County; and to purchase a Far-infrared Laser for Hall C.
The Far-infrared Laser will be used to measure the energy-level of the
electrons in the beam. According to Keppel, the laser will allow for more
precise measurements than the currently used techniques because it is
non-destructive to the electron beam. This means readings can be acquired
continuously through an experiment. In order to obtain the energy-level
measurements, the laser will be aimed at the electron beam, and because the
electrons have a much higher energy than the photons from the laser, the
laser beam will scatter in a backwards motion off the electron beam. This
process is known as Compton Scattering, and by measuring the photon's
energy before and after the scattering, the energy levels of the electrons
can be deduced. NASA is commissioning the optics of the laser, and is
allowing Keppel, with the assistance of NASA Physicist Phil Brockman, to
use one of their laboratories for the purpose of the beam energy
measurement. Keppel applied for her grant through Hampton University, where
she is an assistant professor of Physics.