MSU grad students set to meet Nobel Laureates

Two MSU nuclear science graduate students, Jill Pinter and David Miller, are among the U.S. delegation to the 58th meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students, to be held June 29 to July 4 in Lindau, Germany. The only Michigan students picked to attend the highly selective meeting, Pinter and Miller will join approximately 60 other young U.S. researchers from institutions such as Princeton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, and several national laboratories.

Since 1951, Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physics, and physiology/medicine have convened annually in Lindau to have open and informal meetings with students and young researchers. The focal point of the meeting is to promote dialogue “between the elites of today and tomorrow,” according to the annual report describing the 2007 meeting.

Pinter, 25, is a fourth-year nuclear chemistry doctoral student. Her research focuses on understanding the nuclear magnetic moment – essentially a measure of overall magnetism within the nucleus – of short-lived rare isotopes. Nuclear magnetic moment studies help researchers fill in gaps in understanding of the structure of nuclei.

“I’ve always been most interested in the point where chemistry and physics overlap,” said Pinter, an alumna of Hope College in Holland, Mich. and recipient of a highly selective MSU University Distinguished Fellowship. “When I participated in a six-week long nuclear and radiochemistry summer school a Brookhaven National Laboratory in 2004, I knew nuclear chemistry was the field I wanted to study.”

Pinter’s academic advisor, Paul Mantica, NSCL nuclear chemistry professor, taught at the Brookhaven summer school and she says “Paul is the main reason I came to MSU.”

MSU has the most nuclear science faculty of any U.S. university and is one of few campuses in the nation with deep expertise in nuclear chemistry and nuclear physics.

Miller, 25, is a fourth-year nuclear physics doctoral student studying with Krzysztof Starosta, NSCL assistant professor of nuclear physics. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Miller uses gamma-ray spectroscopy, an investigation of the high-energy light emitted from decaying nuclei, to try to understand the complex interactions within atomic nuclei.

“This is an exciting opportunity, especially because of the wide-ranging physics perspectives represented by the work of those attending the meeting,” said Miller. “Many things in nuclear physics in particular aren't really achieved without substantial collaboration and it will be interesting to discuss how some of the greatest discoveries of our time were made and how the Laureates interact with other scientists to further their results.”

Both Pinter and Miller have had many opportunities to collaborate during their studies at NSCL, a National Science Foundation-funded user facility serving 700 users in 35 countries. Pinter has worked with researchers at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Miller’s collaborators include scientists at Institute of Nuclear Physics (IKP) at the University Cologne in Germany and research engineers at XIA LLC, a Hayward, Calif. company producing X-ray and gamma-ray detector electronics.

The U.S. delegation to the Lindau meeting is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (which is sponsoring Pinter), and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (which is sponsoring Miller).

MSU helps to train 10 percent of all U.S. nuclear science doctoral students and has the No. 2 graduate program in nuclear physics in the nation, according to the 2009 rankings published by U.S. News & World Report.

NSCL is a world-leading laboratory for rare isotope research and nuclear science education.