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Nuclear Physics

Nuclear physics is a field that studies properties of atomic nuclei, the constituents of those nuclei, and the forces that affect them. Nuclear physics has wide practical applications, such as:

  • Nuclear power
  • Archeological dating
  • Biochemical labeling
  • Smoke detectors
  • Nuclear medicine

It is also an area that touches on many aspects of fundamental physics. For example, nuclear physics provides a laboratory to study stellar evolution, nuclear stability, and the fundamental theory of strong interactions quantum chromodynamics (QCD). 

Nuclear physics has a long and distinguished history at the University of Rochester. There have been a number of exciting research efforts in nuclear physics.

Nuclear Physics at Rochester

On the theoretical side, Professor Koltun studied nuclear structure, reactions at intermediate and high energies, and many-body theory. The experimental groups spanned a wide range of energies with their activities.

Professor Gove used the technique of accelerator mass spectrometry for a variety of applications, including the atomic isotope dating of archeological, historical, and geological specimens.

At higher energies, Professor Cline and his group study nuclear structure at several heavy-ion facilities (ANL, LBNL, CERN, TRIUMF) using the Gammasphere, GRETINA, and CHICO detectors. They are learning about nuclei far from islands of stability, the astrophysical r-process, and collective modes such as shape and pairing degrees of freedom of the nuclear many-body system.

At the highest energies, the groups of Manly and Wolfs studied relativistic heavy ion physics at Brookhaven National Laboratory with the E917 experiment at the AGS (Wolfs) and the PHOBOS experiment at RHIC (Manly, Wolfs). These experiments examined nuclear interactions at very high energy densities hoping to observe a phase transition to a new form of matter (quark-gluon plasma). Observing and quantifying such a phase transition is important for testing our model of the strong nuclear interaction and theories of the early universe.

Professor Schroeder's group studied the products of nuclear collisions using the Superball detector. The aim was to understand the dynamics of energetic collisions between complex nuclei and properties of the intermediate states formed in such collisions. 

Additional efforts include a comparison of low energy neutrino and electron nucleon scattering (professors Bodek, Manly, and McFarland) at Jefferson LaboratoryJUPITER, Fermilab (NUMI/MINERVA) and the Japanese Hadron facility (J-PARC), and searches for Dark Matter at the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) Experiment at the DUSEL underground Laboratory at Homestake (Professor Wolfs).