In Class Research

May 23, 2019 at 3:29 pm

Matthew Connell ǀ Detector simulations for nuclear astrophysics studies

By Matthew Connell
(B.S. Physics, Honors Tutorial College, Class of 2021)

Editor’s Note: Matthew Connell worked with Dr. Zach Meisel, an assistant professor in Physics & Astronomy and programmed a simulation of a new detector array being developed at Ohio University’s Edwards Accelerator Laboratory. Matthew’s simulations will enable researchers to mimic experiments on the computer, helping them to better interpret measurement results from their experiments and enabling them to test possible improvements to the detector system.

I helped develop a simulation of a nuclear physics experiment, to be carried out at Edwards Accelerator Lab. I simulated the detector and particles emitted, and studied the results to determine some specifics for the experiment.

I learned four programming languages and some necessary nuclear physics in order to get the simulation up and running. I also got experience working in a unique part of larger group with one experiment as the goal. If I had more time I would continue to make the detector and collisions more closely match the real-world test and I would analyze the importance of precision when we get the actual detector set up.

My biggest challenge this summer was the actual setup and usage of the Geant, the simulator’s programming language. Getting the specifics exactly correct in a language with the scope of Geant took a lot of collaborating, testing, and rebuilding, but we worked it out.

During the summer, I lived in Columbus, but I would drive down to Athens once a week to attend a group meeting and to talk with Dr. Meisel.

I enjoy nuclear physics because it demonstrates that seemingly simple building blocks can make enormously complex and nuanced systems. I would recommend being a summer intern to any student, as it is a great way to work with professionals and other students in your field of study.

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