Notre Dame London Global Gateway
The Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame recently hosted the first annual Notre Dame Europe Symposium on Nuclear Science and Society on October 27-29 at the Notre Dame London Global Gateway. Sponsored by Notre Dame International and organized by physics professors Ani Aprahamian, Umesh Garg, and Michael Wiescher, the symposium attracted more than 50 scientists representing more than 20 institutions across Europe. Over the three day symposium, the talks focused on the applications of nuclear science in the healthcare and energy, especially the research work currently underway in the United Kingdom.
One broad area of conversation focused on the UK’s energy policy, specifically examining the need to create new nuclear reactors. Several scientists voiced concerns that the number of potential people in the UK with the appropriate skills set for careers in nuclear science and energy is dwindling. The group also discussed several aspects for the potential new nuclear reactors in the UK, including the possible challenges of having a several different types of reactors rather than a standard design for the entire system.
Another topic of discussion was the need for accessible, standardized nuclear data. The work of nuclear physicist provides the foundation for nuclear databases that are used by the nuclear industry, astronomers, and healthcare providers. Having primary standards for nuclear data is just as important in nuclear physics as it is in other areas of physical sciences, but support for these standards has not been well received in the nuclear physics industry in the UK.
Research updates were also shared throughout the three day symposium. Several researchers discussed their work with hadron therapy and proton therapy, both of which area used in the field of nuclear medicine. One presentation of particular interest to the group was a talk from Professor Walter Kutschera of the University of Vienna that discussed how the processes used in nuclear weapons testing are extremely helpful in dating. A vast amount of information has been learned about the end of the last ice age using these techniques to study Otzi, the iceman, and the materials found near where his body was discovered.
“This symposium was meant to herald the expansion of the Notre Dame nuclear physics group into the area of applied nuclear science and to develop collaborative relationships with scientists in Europe who are active in this field,” said Garg. “The symposium more than met this goal and was a big hit with the attendees.”