Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences 2021 SURE and SROP Research Projects

NERS Project #1: Radiation Hydrodynamics Simulations of Radiation-Dominated Shock Waves and Complex Hydrodynamic Systems
Faculty Mentor: Carolyn Kuranz, ckuranz@umich.edu 
Prerequisites: A programming course (EECS 183, ENGIN 105, etc) and Physics 240 or equivalent. Strong preference will be given for students that have completed any of the following courses in radiation sciences (NERS 311 / NERS 320), fluid dynamics (NERS 344), and/or plasma physics (NERS 471) or their equivalent in other departments.
Project Description: Inertial Confinement Fusion was first conceived in the 1970s (Nuckolls et al) where “hydrogen may be compressed to more than 10,000 times liquid density by an implosion system energized by a high energy laser.”  During the following decades, the Department of Energy built and operated several large-scale laser facilities with the goal of creating a controlled thermonuclear reaction in the laboratory. Facility operation is costly, and experiments are limited in number. Radiation hydrodynamics simulations can provide essential experimental design and scoping for high-energy laser experiments, as well as aid in experimental data analysis. Students will learn how to simulate high-energy-density and ICF-like conditions using radiation hydrodynamics simulations. Students will analyze and synthesize the results.
Research Mode: Remote

NERS Project #2:  Nanosemiconductor based radiation detectors
Faculty Mentor: Mark Hammig, hammig@umich.edu
Prerequisites:  Self-motivated.  Prefer someone with radiation measurements experience and some basic (freshman level) chemistry experience.  
Project description: The project involves using nanoscale physics to enhance the energy resolution of radiation detectors, and to bring maturity to the fabrication procedures used to make the large-area solid-state detectors.  Nanosemiconductor crystallites allow one to modulate the band-gap and conductivity via changes in the geometry of the underlying solid, and the fabrication methods can reduce the cost of the resulting materials by an order of magnitude or more.  During the project, the student will participate in all aspects of the detector fabrication and testing, which includes: 1) chemical growth of the PbSe and CdTe nanocrystalline quantum dots in solution, 2) deposition of the dots into a solid colloidal assembly, 3) forming the solids into various detector configurations, and 4) testing the resulting devices.  We generally start undergraduates in the latter two aspects of the work, focusing on the radiation detector fabrication and testing, while a graduate student does most of the chemistry.  But knowledge across the entire process is beneficial.
Research Mode: In-lab

NERS Project #3:  Long Range Fissile Material Detection
Faculty Mentor: Mark Hammig, hammig@umich.edu
Prerequisites:  Self-motivated.  Prefer someone with an optics or plasmas background.
Project description: The project involves assaying the environment around fissile materials (uranium, plutonium) and trying to enhance the ionization signal via laser-based plasma formation.  We previously showed that a 10 – 100 ns laser pulse can be used to form a bright, emissive plasma when in spatial and temporal coincidence with radiation-induced ionization.  However, we need assistance in fully characterizing the interaction and developing the laser and detection systems.  The student will be involved in both modeling and experiments. 
Research Mode: In-lab

NERS Project #4: Virtual Nuclear Reactor Laboratory Experiment Development 
Faculty Mentor: Brendan Kochunas, bkochuna@umich.edu
Prerequisites: NERS 211, preferably NERS 441/442. Good programming skills.
Project Description: In this project students will develop content for a virtual nuclear reactor laboratory course. They’ll work from previous course material to perform calculations and simulations of nuclear reactors and various aspects of reactor physics to generate data that may be measured in a virtual reality environment. Students will also have the opportunity to work with Unreal engine to develop and test the experiments in virtual reality.
Research Mode: Hybrid, Remote

NERS Project #5: Microreactor Systems Analysis
Faculty Mentor: Brendan Kochunas, bkochuna@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Familiarity with Simulink, Modelica, or systems dynamics modeling.
Project Description: The US DOE is focused on developing a new reactor technology, called microreactors. These are substantially smaller reactors than those that have been traditionally deployed. Microreactors are classified as systems that produce 1 to 20 MWe. Consequently, they have the potential to be a disruptive technology in the nuclear industry. Many designs for microreactors are still in the conceptual phase where simulation tools serve as the primary engineering analysis. In this project students will focus on the design and analysis of reactor control algorithms and hybrid power conversion systems.
Research Mode: Hybrid, Remote

NERS Project #6: Development of Radiation Interaction Physics Modules in a Radiation Transport Framework
Faculty Name: Brian Kiedrowski, bckiedro@umich.edu
Project Requirements: Familiarity with the C++ programming language
Project Description: Simulation tools are used extensively to understand the transport and interactions of radiation with matter in engineering applications. The student will work on a software development team on a research and development framework for advanced methods development. The project will involve writing C++ code to support the simulation of radiation interactions in the Monte Carlo solver. Students will learn concepts of modern software development in the context of scientific computing and simulation. 
Research Mode Options: In Lab, Remote, Hybrid

NERS Project #7: Development of Advanced Automated Variance Reduction Methods in a Radiation Transport Framework
Faculty Name: Brian Kiedrowski, bckiedro@umich.edu
Project Requirements: Familiarity with the C++ programming language and differential equations
Project Description: Simulation tools are used extensively to understand the transport and interactions of radiation with matter in engineering applications. The student will work on a software development team on a research and development framework for advanced methods development. The project will involve writing C++ code to support advanced variance reduction methods in our deterministic discrete ordinates and Monte Carlo solvers for the purpose of accelerating computationally difficult problems. Students will learn concepts of modern software development in the context of scientific computing and simulation. 
Research Mode Options: In Lab, Remote, Hybrid

NERS Project #8: Development of a Fission Event Generator in a Radiation Transport Framework
Faculty Name: Brian Kiedrowski, bckiedro@umich.edu
Project Requirements: Familiarity with the C++ programming language and differential equations
Project Description: Simulation tools are used extensively to understand the transport and interactions of radiation with matter in engineering applications. The student will work on a software development team on a research and development framework for advanced methods development. The project will involve writing C++ code to support the development of Meitner, an event generator that simulates the process of nuclear fission. Students will learn concepts of modern software development in the context of scientific computing and simulation. 
Research Mode Options: In Lab, Remote, Hybrid

NERS Project #9: Development of a Machine-Learning Interface for Radiation Transport Problem Classification
Faculty Name: Brian Kiedrowski, bckiedro@umich.edu
Project Requirements: Familiarity with the Python programming language
Project Description: Simulation tools are used extensively to understand the transport and interactions of radiation with matter in engineering applications. The student will work on a software development team on a research and development framework for advanced methods development. The project will involve developing a Python interface to populate training data for database containing radiation transport test problems representative of real-world applications and classifying them based on the effectiveness of particular variance reduction techniques. Students will learn concepts of modern software development in the context of scientific computing and simulation. 
Research Mode Options: In Lab, Remote, Hybrid

NERS Project #10: Radiation Detection Methods for Photon Active Interrogation
Faculty Mentor: Sara Pozzi, pozzisa@umich.edu
Graduate Student Mentor:  Chris Meert, cmeert@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Ability to work independently, inquisitive/questioning attitude. Programming experience (e.g., matlab, python, C++) is preferred
Project Description:  Photon active interrogation techniques improve detection capabilities for shielded special nuclear material (SNM), such as highly enriched uranium. Photon active interrogation can improve detection capabilities because an intense, high-energy photon beam can penetrate shielding materials and induce photonuclear reactions in SNM, greatly increasing radiation emissions. The University of Michigan is developing economical photon active interrogation techniques for homeland security applications using a 9-MeV linear accelerator (linac), and economical detection technologies. Students will participate in experiments, develop simulations, analyze data, and learn underlying nuclear engineering concepts.
Research Mode: Hybrid 

NERS Project #11: Neutron Multiplicity Counting for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Safeguards
Faculty Mentor: Sara Pozzi, pozzisa@umich.edu
Graduate Student Mentor:  Michael Hua, mikwa@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Willingness to learn, experience with coding (MATLAB, Python, or C++) is a bonus
Project Description:  Quantities of special nuclear material (SNM) must be accounted for and verified to prevent State diversion of SNM from civilian to clandestine uses and to prevent loss to terrorist organizations.  Because SNM is typically surrounded by shielding and portions could be replaced by other material, simply weighing samples is insufficient.  Instead, nondestructive assays based on correlated signatures from the SNM are used.  SNM undergoes fission and emits neutrons.  The number or multiplicity of neutrons is random; however, the multiplicity of emitted neutrons follows a distribution over many fissions.  The distribution is unique to each isotope and the rate of the detected multiplicities can be used to calculate the mass of a sample.  In this project, students will work with radiation, perform data analysis, and write simulations.  Students will have the opportunity to analyze data taken from large samples of uranium, plutonium, and neptunium.

Research Mode: Hybrid  
NERS Project #12: Automatic Calibration of Detector Arrays for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Safeguards
Faculty Mentor: Sara Pozzi, pozzisa@umich.edu
Graduate Student Mentor:  Michael Hua, mikwa@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Experience and comfort with LabView or C#
Project Description: Radiation detectors are used in nuclear nonproliferation and international safeguards to prevent the spread of special nuclear material.  These detectors must be calibrated such that each one responds the same way to the radiation it is measuring.  Currently, detectors are calibrated manually, one at a time.  Hence, calibration is a cumbersome process and can be time consuming for large arrays of detectors (up to 54).  Therefore, to save procedural and operational costs by organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency (subsidiary to the United Nations), it is of interest to develop automatic calibration software.  In this project, students will have the opportunity to work with radiation, detectors, and data acquisition systems.  Students will use LabView or C# to write a program to automate the calibration of internationally used detectors.  To understand design features, students will perform hands-on measurements of radiation sources.
Research Mode: Hybrid 

NERS Project #13: Rossi-alpha Neutron Measurements for Nuclear Criticality Safety
Faculty Mentor: Sara Pozzi, pozzisa@umich.edu
Graduate Student Mentor:  Michael Hua, mikwa@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Willingness to learn, experience with coding (MATLAB, Python, or C++) is a bonus
Project Description:  Subcritical and critical assemblies of nuclear material are sustainable sources of energy, used to produce medical isotopes used to treat tumors, and tools for fundamental science research.  A supercritical assembly can be unstable, releasing exponentially growing amounts of energy and radiation detrimental to the health of nuclear operators.  Subcritical and critical assemblies can become supercritical by adding more material, changing the geometry of the material, or adding reflecting material.  Therefore, to utilize the benefits of subcritical and critical assemblies, we need to be able to monitor and predict the criticality.  Criticality can be inferred from Rossi-alpha measurements, which are predicated on neutron detections.  In this project, students will advance Rossi-alpha measurements by working with radiation, data analysis, and simulations.
Research Mode: Hybrid  

NERS Project #14: Analytic Math Solutions to the Problem of Uncertainty Quantification and Propagation
Faculty Mentor: Sara Pozzi, pozzisa@umich.edu
Graduate Student Mentor:  Michael Hua, mikwa@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Willingness to learn, comfort with equations
Project Description:  The project described above (Rossi-alpha Neutron… and Neutron Multiplicity Counting…) rely on accurate quantification and propagation of uncertainty.  A first approximation is to account for the variance in terms, only.  A more-accurate approach is to also incorporate covariance.  In this project, you will implement covariance calculations and analyze their importance.
Research Mode: Hybrid  

NERS Project #15: Radiation Weather Station (RWS)
Faculty Mentor: Professor Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Students work as part of a team; a student’s specific assignment will depend upon the background and interests of each student
Project description: The Radiation Weather Station is a facility consisting of sensors located at several stations on University of Michigan’s North Campus, with auxiliary stations planned elsewhere. Sensors are available for temperature, pressure, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, solar flares, soil moisture, radon, and gamma rays. Naturally-occurring, medical and nuclear power plant radionuclides may be detected, with information collected about the energy of their gamma rays. Monitoring is designed to identify radionuclides from natural, planned, and accidental releases, while tracking indoor and outdoor environmental conditions. All data are then to be shared through a continuously-updated website. A variety of projects are available involving the development and improvement of the data base, deployment of new sensors, analysis of large data sets, website development, addition of mobile phone-based radiation detectors, and the preparation of educational materials for the public and K-12 audiences. A small, affordable RWS featuring a smaller collection of more affordable sensors controlled by a Raspberry Pi computer is also undergoing development. Tasks and specific work are tailored to the student, depending upon their interests and capabilities. This may involve one (or possibly multiple) of the following: software usage, statistical analysis, coding, hardware interfacing, analysis of temporal data sets, preparation of materials for the public, machine learning, design of mechanical parts and cases, historical research, and technical writing for the public. 
Note: This project is *not* about climate change or weather prediction. It is about detecting and characterizing the type and source of ionizing radiation as it changes as a function of time at different locations.
Research Mode: remote, hybrid (some in-person may be possible/needed for certain tasks but not required of all participants). Example in-person tasks could include installation, modification, calibration, or testing of new sensors.

NERS Project #16: Smart Radiation Detectors and Adaptive Navigation for Radiation Surveys
Faculty Mentor: Professor Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Students work as part of a team; a student’s specific assignment will depend upon the background and interests of each student
Project description: Several software and hardware development projects are relating to the improvement and testing of a smart radiation detector. The current design is a Geiger-Muller (GM) ionizing radiation detector controlled by Raspberry Pi computer. Enhanced designs may ultimately be possible using spectroscopic detectors.  Smart radiation detectors could be used by individuals performing radiation surveys on smaller spaces such as individual laboratories. They could also be transported larger distances using ground-base or aerial platforms, ranging from firetrucks to automatically piloted drones. Software involving auditory or visual communications could alert surveyors of spots which have been missed in performing detailed surveys, such as lab benches when searching for contamination. More complex software could be used to construct the distribution of the sources of radiation in an environment from limited measurements. That approximation could then be used to inform the best locations for addition measurements and optimize a measurement path to further improve knowledge of the sources. Such approaches would be invaluable for first responders to radiological events as well as those involved in the cleanup of legacy radioactive wastes or the decommissioning of nuclear facilities. Experienced students are sought to develop computer programs and mobile device Apps to fully enable their appropriate functioning, display of data, and intelligent navigation of such detectors. Students should provide clear information about their experience and proficiency in software, hardware, radiation detection, and mechanical design so that their role on a diverse team working on this project could be identified.
Note: The algorithms in this project may also be applied to the location of WiFi emitters and other sources of radiation (such as radio waves) which are non-ionizing. Some projects are available concerned with the usage of these, which are “substitutes” for ionizing radiation.
Research Mode: remote, hybrid (some in-person may be possible/needed for certain tasks but not required of all participants). Dry benchwork (such as soldering involved in the making of a smart detector) may be completed at student’s homes and tested using readily available radioactive materials. Example in-person tasks could include experiments testing the performance of the smart detectors or algorithms for using them.  Some experiments may be performed outside.

NERS Project #17: Radon Gas—An Indoor Radioactive Hazard Useful for the Detection of Nuclear Weapons and Earthquakes
Faculty Mentor: Professor Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Students work as part of a team; a student’s specific assignment will depend upon the background and interests of each student
Project description: Radon gas is a ubiquitous naturally occurring radioactive material that occurs throughout the environment and in all buildings, at least in small amounts. It can be readily detected but presents health hazards when in high concentrations. Radon gas levels change as a function of local weather conditions, as well as the heating or cooling situation within a building. Radon has also been observed to change many days in advance of major earthquakes. This project involves the study of radon gas as a function of time both indoors and outside. State-of-the-art equipment is deployed both to measure radon gas as well as to track local weather and other conditions such as solar and background radiation from other sources. Students may participate in both experimental data collection as well as analysis of large data sets. Discrimination of airborne transuranics from naturally occurring radon gas is particularly important for worker protection during commercial nuclear power plant outages and dose control during emergencies. Topic is especially suitable for students ultimately interested in homeland security/treaty verification, nuclear power plant operations, and/or radiation protection. Students should have motivation to learn, basic programming skills, and solid mathematics and physics backgrounds. Student with appropriate background may be able to apply machine learning techniques to analyze existing data sets.
Research Mode: remote, hybrid (some in-person may be possible/needed for certain tasks but not required of all participants). In-person tasks for some participants could include counting charcoal canisters or reading out electrets on existing laboratory equipment or setting up experiments to collect data.

NERS Project #18: Thermoluminescent and Optically Stimulated Luminescent Dosimetry– Radiation Dose Measurements for Workers, Patients, and Environmental Monitoring
Faculty Mentor: Professor Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Students work as part of a team; a student’s specific assignment will depend upon the background and interests of each student
Project description: Dosimeters are passive, integrating materials used to monitor the radiation exposure of workers in nuclear facilities. Although all workers receive dosimeters, there are different types and they have different performance characteristics. New dosimeter types and ways of calibrating and deploying them are being developed in the laboratory. Dosimetry systems are also used for medical applications including radiation therapy, diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine. The limitations of different types of dosimeters are being actively compared and characterized for medical applications. Advanced software is also being developed to automatically analyze thermoluminescent dosimeter glow curves for research projects as well as routine analysis. A dosimetry calibration source is also being carefully characterized using a quality control experiments undergoing development. Students may be engaged in in performing experiments, data analysis, and/or software design. This project is especially suitable for students ultimately interested in homeland security/treaty verification, medical physics, nuclear power plant operations, and/or radiation protection. Students should have motivation to learn, basic programming skills, and solid mathematics and physics or computer programming backgrounds.
Research Mode: remote, hybrid (some in-person may be possible/needed for certain tasks but not required of all participants). Example in-person tasks could include performing quality control of a radiation source, calibration of detectors, processing of dosimeters, or performance of experiments involving phantoms.

NERS Project #19: Radiation Spectroscopy for the Identification of Radionuclides
Faculty Mentor: Professor Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Students should have strong skills, experience, or interest in computer programming or radiation detection 
Project description:  The applications of this project are protection of the public from environmental radiation, nuclear accident dose reconstruction, and nuclear weapons treaty verification. Energy spectroscopy involves the determination of the energy of particular types of radiation, which are characteristic of the source of radiation. Alpha, gamma, and neutron spectroscopic devices are calibrated and deployed to solve real-world problems involving radiation sources. Students may become involved in nuanced calibrations, data interpretation, and specific measurement campaigns involving a variety of both state-of-the-art and newly developed instruments used for radiation spectroscopy. Applications of an imaging spectrometer to the medical environment as well as for naturally occurring radioactivity may also be explored. Topic is especially suitable for students ultimately interested in homeland security/treaty verification, medical physics, nuclear power plant operations, and/or radiation protection. 
Research Mode: remote, hybrid (some in-person may be possible/needed for certain tasks but not required of all participants). Example in-person tasks could include data collection and instrument calibration.

NERS Project #20: Extended Reality for Radiation Protection
Faculty Mentor: Professor Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Students work as part of a team; a student’s specific assignment will depend upon the background and interests of each student
Project description: Work with a team producing a game or other extended reality experience to teach the principles of radiation protection or attracting interest in the nuclear sciences. Unity, Unreal, Uptail, or other 3D software may be used.  Students may become involved in overall game or experience design, artwork, rendering of nuclear-specific objects (Blender or Solidworks), implementation of realistic radiation source and detector physics, or creation of competitive aspects to the software. Three-dimensional video cameras and Oculus 
Research Mode: remote. Software, 3D cameras, and virtual reality display systems will be made available to students for the performance of the project at locations of their chosing.