BOONE, N.C. — Dr. Roshani Silwal, assistant professor in Appalachian State University's Department of Physics and Astronomy, is the co-recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Award. Between August 2023 and July 2026, Silwal and Dr. Endre Takacs, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Clemson University, will receive $595,478 to support work on their project, titled "High-Z Highly Charged Ions Probing Nuclear Charge Radii, QED, and the Standard Model." Silwal's lab will receive $207,997 of the total amount.
NSF RUI awards provide funding for research by faculty members at predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUI), such as App State. The awards support PUI faculty in research that engages them in their professional field, builds capacity for research at their home institution and supports the integration of research and undergraduate education.
Using an electron beam ion trap (EBIT), the project aims to conduct an experimental study of highly charged ions with simple, theoretically calculable electronic configurations to understand nuclear effects that currently hinder precision studies. "In an EBIT, highly-energetic electrons collide with neutral atoms ionizing them and emitting radiation as a result of several radiative-collisional atomic processes," explained Silwal.
"By measuring the emitted radiations in the extreme-ultraviolet and x-ray region, the investigators measured a series of benchmark experiments using Na-like and Mg-like ions and determined the nuclear charge radii differences of high-Z isotopes. In this project, they will expand these studies, investigate its limitations and explore its sensitivity to beyond the standard model physics. The study will also be used to improve the existing atomic theories of complex atomic systems," she added. The team plans to conduct the measurements at the EBIT facility at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
In line with the award's objectives, student researchers will be involved in setting up the experiment, collecting and analyzing data, writing scientific reports and presenting the findings at conferences. Students will also travel to NIST for short periods to conduct work in their cutting-edge research facilities.
"The allocated tasks align with the graduate coursework and are beneficial for professional training both in academic and industry settings. The student will learn professional skills such as teamwork, leadership, writing, presentation and technical skills. Such training is significant to both acquire and succeed in their future career platform," explained Silwal, who plans to begin recruiting interested students once classes begin later this month.
About Dr. Roshani Silwal
Silwal earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from St. Xavier’s College in Kathmandu, Nepal and her doctoral degree in atomic/molecular physics from Clemson University. Following the completion of her doctorate, Silwal conducted postdoctoral research at TRIUMF, Canada's particle accelerator center, before joining App State's Department of Physics and Astronomy in January 2021. At App State, Silwal has taught a variety of physics courses, including Modern Physics I, Medical Physics, General Physics lecture and laboratory, Computer Interfacing laboratory, Methods of Experimental Physics laboratory and Senior Seminar.
About the Department of Physics and Astronomy
The Department of Physics and Astronomy’s curriculum has an applied nature that includes a core of fundamental physics courses and laboratory experiences. The department prepares graduates for a variety of scientific, teaching or engineering professions, as well as future educational endeavors. Learn more at https://physics.appstate.edu.
By Lauren Andersen
August 14, 2023