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Research

The History of Nuclear Physics at the University of Rochester

The University of Rochester has played a leading role in both experimental and theoretical nuclear physics for about six decades. The tradition in experimental nuclear physics dates back to 1937 when Sidney Barnes and coworkers commissioned one of the world's first cyclotron accelerators. This 27" cyclotron was upgraded to variable-frequency operation in the 1950s further extending it's lifetime for forefront nuclear research. Many questions of significance to nuclear physics were answered during its lifetime. It was decommissioned in 1965 and moved to India where it still operates.

The Nuclear Structure Research Laboratory was built on campus during the early 1960s. It was centered on one of the worlds largest tandem Van de Graaff accelerators which was equipped with a versatile arsenal of instrumentation. This powerful heavy-ion beam facility was commissioned in 1966 and upgraded in the 1980s. For 29 years it played an important and distinguished role in nuclear science, as well as pioneering new fields such as accelerator mass spectrometry. This accelerator was decommissioned in 1995 and moved to the Brookhaven National Laboratory to serve as a second injector to the new RHIC facility.

The current experimental research program in focused off campus at major national and international heavy ion facilities. The Nuclear Structure Research Laboratory groups continue to play leading roles in nuclear science by building and exploiting major experimental facilities. For example, PHOBOS at RHIC (Brookhaven), Gammasphere (Argonne and Berkeley), the YRAST array (Yale), and the Superball neutron detector (MSU). The Rochester nuclear theory groups have played pioneering roles developing the nuclear shell model and direct reactions in the 1950s and 60s, and since then have made major contributions to statistical spectroscopy and meson physics.