NERS Project #1: Pulse Shape Discrimination (PSD) of Neutron/Gamma-ray Pulses Using Data Measured with Stilbene and Liquid Scintillation Detectors
Faculty Mentor: Sara Pozzi, pozzisa@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Motivation to learn, basic programming skills, solid mathematics and physics background, Matlab
Project Description: Organic scintillation detectors are sensitive to both neutrons and gamma rays and are useful in mixed neutron/gamma-ray fields typically encountered in nuclear nonproliferation applications. The student will help developing a new PSD technique to allow for more accurate discrimination of neutron and gamma rays measured with liquid scintillation detectors, especially at low energies (the low-energy information is currently lost) and in a strong gamma-ray field. The student will perform pulse shape analysis using Matlab or other programming language to choose the best PSD technique for the energy range of interest. The new PSD technique will be compared to the one currently in use in a variety of measurement conditions with strong gamma-ray backgrounds.

NERS Project #2: MCNP Simulations for Nuclear Nonproliferation Applications
Faculty Mentor: Sara Pozzi, pozzisa@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Motivation to learn, basic mathematics and physics background, Matlab
Project Description: The student will help simulating various source-detector configurations for nuclear nonproliferation applications. The simulations will be performed with Monte Carlo codes such as MCNP6, MCNPX, and MCNPX-PoliMi. Several measurement data sets are available from various experiments  conducted by my group (experiments performed with various organic scintillators detectors, and various nuclear-material samples) and they need to be compared to accurate MCNP simulations to aid in the analysis. This project will support several of my group’s activities.

NERS Project #3: Neutron Multiplicity Counting
Faculty Mentor: Sara Pozzi, pozzisa@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Motivation to learn, basic programming skills, solid mathematics and physics background, Matlab
Project Description: Neutron multiplicity counting is a well-established measurement tool for characterizing and verifying fissile material. It has been used for several decades both in passive systems for high-spontaneous fission rate isotopes, as well as in form of active systems employing an interrogating source. The technique is applied to the assay of materials such as fresh and spent nuclear fuel, scrap nuclear metal, and MOX. The instruments are traditionally based on thermal neutron detection using He-3 neutron capture detectors; however, He-3 has recently entered a state of severe scarcity, resulting in the need of new instruments for the verification of fissile mass in international safeguards. We are designing, and building a measurement systems to be used as an alternative to He-3 based systems for the assay of special nuclear materials. The new systems uses arrays of organic scintillation detectors, including the new pulse-shape-discrimination-capable plastic scintillators, and digital acquisition with on-the-fly data processing. The student will study the performance of the system with both experiments in the laboratory and Monte Carlo simulation. This new approach will provide shorter die-away time, faster sample assay times, and more accurate energy information. 

NERS Project #4: Nuclear Reactor Analysis Software Development and Validation Activities
Faculty Mentor: Thomas Downar, downer@umich.edu
Prerequisite: Basic programming skills, familiarity with Linux/Unix, 
experience with engineering software
Project Description: The Michigan Parallel Characteristics Transport (MPACT) code is a next generation high fidelity core simulator being actively developed in the NERS department. MPACT is at the center of the software products being developed under the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) program; a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub. A key task in the development of nuclear reactor analysis software is validation of the models and numerical methods used in the code. The student would become a member of a software development team consisting of research faculty and staff and graduate students. As a part of this team the student would gain experience in functioning within a research group and modern lean/agile software engineering practices. The general focus of their work would be to assist in the development and analysis of models based on internationally accepted reactor physics experimental benchmarks. Depending on the specific skill set of the student, opportunities for additional or more challenging tasks could be provided. It is expected that with sufficient progress the student’s work will merit publication in a scientific journal or conference proceeding.

NERS Project #5: Analysis of the DOE Transient Test Reactor, TREAT
Faculty Mentor: Thomas Downar, downar@umich.edu
Prerequisite: Basic programming skills, basic familiarity with Linux/Unix, 
experience with engineering software
Project Description: The Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) is located at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and is a small, air-cooled test facility designed to simulate conditions inside typical reactor cores in order to assess the behavior of reactor fuels and structural materials during reactor accidents. Specifically, transient testing is performed by subjecting the reactor materials to short pulses of high-power radiation. The main design objective of 
TREAT was to simulate and monitor conditions which lead to fuel damage which requires rapid movement of control rods. The TREAT reactor was constructed in 1959 and ran continuously until 1994.  In order to perform transient testing of new “accident tolerant” fuel designs, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) made the decision to restart TREAT and the reactor is projected to resume operation by 2018, with the transient tests beginning before 2020. 
The University of Michigan is part of a DOE project to perform modeling and simulation in support of the TREAT restart using both Monte Carlo and Determinisitc computer codes. Depending on the skills and interests of the student, this project would involve modeling various aspects of the steady-state and transient behavior of the reactor.  It is expected that with sufficient progress the student’s work will merit publication in a scientific journal or conference proceeding.

NERS Project #6: Radon gas measurements for detecting nuclear weapons and earthquakes
Faculty Mentor: Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Motivation to learn, basic programming skills, solid mathematics and physics background
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, and 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. They have 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.

NERS Project #7: Radiation dose measurements for workers, patients, and chain-of-custody for special nuclear materials
Faculty Mentor: Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Motivation to learn, basic programming skills, solid mathematics and physics background
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. For the first time ever, a method has been developed to extract how dose was delivered as a function of time during the radiation exposure has been developed. 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, while a novel dosimeter is being developed to serve as a chain-of-custody detector for nuclear treaty verification. Students are engaged in both experiments and data analysis. Topic is especially suitable for students ultimately interested in homeland security/treaty verification, medical physics, nuclear power plant operations, and/or radiation protection.

NERS Project #8: Radiation spectroscopy for the practical identification of radionuclides and radiation sources for protection of the public from environmental radiation, nuclear accident dose reconstruction, and nuclear weapons treaty verification
Faculty Mentor: Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Motivation to learn, basic programming skills, solid mathematics and physics background
Project Description:  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.

NERS Project #9: Smart Detectors, Drones, and Radiation Monitoring Stations
Faculty Mentor: Kim Kearfott, kearfott@umich.edu
Prerequisites: Motivation to learn, basic programming skills, solid mathematics and physics background
Project Description:  Radiation is everywhere! Significant natural radiation exists near deposits of uranium and radium, which include uranium mining areas of the United States as well as as a result of processes such as fracking. It is used in medicine and industry, and a large number of radionuclides exist because of nuclear weapons testing and routine releases from nuclear power plants. This project involves the design of smart dectectors for usage by radiation protection specialists, and for deployment on drones and in fixed radiation monitoring stations with publically available data. Special algorithms are being developed along with new radiation detector designs for nearly all applications of radiation detectors.

NERS Project #10: Python toolkit development for neutron-gamma pulse shape discrimination in organic scintillator detectors
Faculty Mentor: Patricia Schuster, pfschus@umich.edu
Requirements: Motivation to learn, basic programming skills, solid mathematics and physics background, some Python experience
Project description: Organic scintillator materials are used as radiation detectors for a wide array of applications including basic science, nuclear nonproliferation, arms control, nuclear security, and emergency response. The shape of the digital pulse generated in organic scintillator radiation detectors depends on the particle type, allowing for interactions of neutrons and gamma rays to be identified and separated using pulse shape discrimination (PSD). PSD has been widely developed for many years using multiple techniques, but no standard method exists. This makes it difficult to compare the PSD performance in organic scintillator materials characterized by different groups. We aim to develop an open-source toolkit that will be made available to the radiation detection community to 1) establish a standard method for implementing PSD and evaluating a material’s PSD performance and 2) lower the learning curve for new users who wish to perform PSD. The student will compare current methods for implementing PSD, establish metrics for evaluating a material’s PSD performance, write (or contribute to existing) scripts in python for performing PSD on a wide variety of existing detector data, and package the collection of codes into a user-friendly toolkit. The student may interface with users at universities and national laboratories in order to understand what their data analysis needs are. This project will involve collaborating with other students who are engaged in research on improved methods for PSD.