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Two ODU Doctoral Students in Nuclear Physics Win Jefferson Lab Fellowships

Two doctoral students at Old Dominion University, Jixie Zhang and Giovanni Chirilli, have been awarded fellowships for research during 2008-09 at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in Newport News.

The Jefferson Lab Graduate Fellowship Program is administered by Jefferson Science Associates (JSA), the company that manages the lab. JSA is affiliated with the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA), the university consortium with overall responsibility for lab operations. Eight JSA fellowship winners will share $110,000 in stipends and research-related travel grants.

ODU is the only university with two recipients. Others are from Florida State University, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Rice University, Duke University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. To be eligible, students must be enrolled at one of SURA's 60 member institutions.

"Congratulations to Jixie and Giovanni on this wonderful achievement," said Gail Dodge, chair of the Department of Physics, in her announcement of the awards. "Both students are doing an excellent job on their research projects. We are especially proud that two of our students merited this honor this year. These fellowships are extremely competitive."

Zhang is a repeat recipient, having also been funded by the fellowship program in 2007-08. He is studying the excited states of the neutron, known as resonances. In particular, he is looking at the decay of these resonances into a negative pion (quark-anti-quark pair) and a proton. His adviser is Dodge, a nuclear physicist who conducts experiments at Jefferson Lab.

Chirilli's adviser is Ian Balitsky, ODU professor of physics and a theorist associated with the lab. Together they have succeeded in calculating corrections to an important equation (the Balitsky-Kovchegov equation) that describes how the constituents of nucleons (protons and neutrons) and nuclei behave at high energies. These corrections, which solve a long-standing problem, will make this equation valid at energies now available for experiments.

Fellowship applicants are judged on academic merits, quality of proposed research and relevance of the proposed research to the Jefferson Lab mission and resources. The lab's mile-long continuous electron beam accelerator is used for basic research of the atom's nucleus at the quark level. The facility also has a free electron laser program.

This article was posted on: June 9, 2008

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