Research Using Ohio Wesleyan-Built Detectors Under Way at Michigan State University

OWU students, faculty continue ongoing data analysis

Taimur Islam ’13, professor Bob Kaye, and James McGugan ’12 of Colorado College traveled from Ohio Wesleyan to the National Superconducting Cyclotron Lab (NSCL) at Michigan State University for the Large-area multi-Institutional Scintillator Array (LISA) commissioning experiment in June. (Photo courtesy of Bob Kaye)

Ohio Wesleyan University is impacting the art of science with its involvement in the MoNA-LISA project.

Two years ago, OWU students and physics department faculty member Bob Kaye, Ph.D., joined eight other undergraduate schools in the MoNA (Modular Neutron Array) Collaboration to study short-lived (exotic) nuclei to seek answers to outstanding questions in nuclear physics.

In June, Kaye, Taimur Islam ’13, and James McGugan ’12 (a Colorado College student performing research work at OWU this summer) went to Michigan State University to assist with commissioning MoNA’s LISA (Large-area multi-Institutional Scintillator Array), a neutron-detection system that includes detectors constructed at Ohio Wesleyan by two of its physics students last summer.

Islam and McGugan perform detector calibrations for the LISA commissioning experiment at the NSCL in June. (Photo courtesy of Bob Kaye)

“Unfortunately, an unscheduled power outage caused a delay that prevented us from participating in the main commissioning experiment,” Kaye says. “However, my students and I kept quite busy during our four days at Michigan State. While there, we assisted in calibrating the Cathode Readout Drift Chambers, which are an integral part of the system that detects exotic nuclei, and in the analysis of data collected from experiments conducted last fall.

“The actual production and detection of exotic nuclei was conducted after we left, and appears to have gone well,” Kaye adds. “But it will likely be about two years before the final data analysis is completed and the results are compared with theoretical predictions.”

Islam previously visited the NSCL over spring break, when he helped with the physical setup of LISA. The LISA system has 144 individual detector modules with six sets of cables in each—totaling about eight miles of cable!

“I learned how to work collaboratively in an experimental team,” Islam says. “In an experiment as large as this, every small step counts toward success, and it is extremely crucial to do your best—no matter now trivial the task is.”

He adds it was “an amazing experience to work with so many people from different schools—especially because we all shared the same goal and interests.”

McGugan says he’s learned much about nuclear physics while working at OWU this summer. “[It] is education I haven’t had access to previously. Second, and more importantly, I’ve been finding out what research work is like, including what it’s like to work in a large collaboration.”

Back on the OWU campus, Islam and McGugan continue to analyze data obtained during research involving the existing MoNA detectors from fall 2010.

Kaye says the enhanced MoNA-LISA detector array system will be an important tool in the long-term study of rare isotopes, and it should provide cutting-edge research opportunities for his students for years to come.

View the poster created by OWU student researcher Alex Howe ’11 for the 2010 Summer Science Symposium to learn more about the OWU detector construction.

To learn more about the MoNA Collaboration, visit

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