PAN XIII brings the next generation of nuclear scientists to the NSCL

The thirteenth annual Physics of Atomic Nuclei (PAN) program brought 11 teachers and 22 pre-College students to the NSCL. This JINA-cosponsored program encouraged students' curiosity in nuclear science while giving teachers valuable tools and experience to introduce the topic in their own classrooms. PAN participants attended lectures by NSCL faculty and performed hands-on experiments in a radioactive decay laboratory before they conducted their own experiments on cosmic rays.

For two weeks in late summer, the NSCL hosted its thirteenth annual Physics of Atomic Nuclei (PAN) program. Sponsored by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA) and the NSCL, PAN was designed from the start to show students opportunities in nuclear science and give teachers tools and knowledge they can use in the classroom. This year's program continued this tradition.

Eight American teachers arrived first to learn more about practical ways to include nuclear physics in their curriculum. Three teachers from South Korea joined them as part of the MSU Visiting International Professional Program. Despite some language and cultural differences, the teachers quickly found themselves united by a common purpose: the love of learning. NSCL faculty taught them the basics of nuclear science and experimentation while offering a glimpse into the future of rare-isotope research. The teachers also enjoyed hands-on experiences with an innovative radioactive decay laboratory and collaborated to construct two cosmic ray detectors.

In the second week, 22 pre-college students joined PAN with a plethora of physics questions and an eagerness to learn. Their education began immediately with lectures on the NSCL, JINA and the history of cosmic ray research. The teachers led teams of students through evaluations after each talk to clarify the topic, and helped them study several radioactive sources in the lab. As a final project, the teams designed their own cosmic-ray experiments using the homemade detectors, then conducted and reported on their research. While their hypotheses didn't always prove true, the students gained valuable experience in the scientific process.

To learn more about the PAN program, see more images or view lectures and presentations, visit the PAN website

To learn more about the MSU VIPP program, visit

PAN teacher Jennifer Pakkala shows PAN student Weike Wang how to operate a cosmic ray detector.

JINA assistant Lindsay Hebeler enjoys MSU Dairy Store ice cream with PAN students Conor Parks and Kevin Lau.

PAN student Paul Dunn carefully adjusts a Geiger-Müller counter to detect gamma radiation.

NSCL graduate student Rhiannon Meharchand assists PAN teacher Amanda Laidlaw in repairing a cosmic ray detector.