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Nuclear Physics

Nuclear and Particle Physics at SDSU

As the current nuclear workforce retires, and the need for more clean energy increases, nuclear-savvy employees are in high demand by utilities, hospitals, and national laboratories.  Students that pursue an internship or an undergraduate research project in an area of nuclear science or nuclear engineering are well-prepared for these opportunities.

The ability of materials to perform in high-radiation environments is of interest for nuclear power, space exploration, and fusion power.  Dr. McTaggart is pursuing several studies regarding the irradiation of different materials and devices with gamma rays and neutrons and their response before and after said irradiation.  Besides allowing current nuclear technologies to operate longer, such irradiation testing is also worthwhile for durability testing of solid state materials used in photovoltaics.

The department operates a nuclear laboratory that studies both naturally-occurring and man-made isotopes in the environment via gamma spectroscopy and alpha/beta counting.  Such isotopes serve as natural radiotracers for natural or man-made activities.  Neutron activation analysis complements mass spectroscopy by assaying trace amounts of heavy metals after exposure to neutrons.  Construction and calibration of new detectors is also of interest.

Dr. McTaggart has also been involved with the developing Sanford Underground Research Facility, and supports low background counting for ultra-low levels of Uranium, Thorium, and Potassium isotopes that produce unwanted statistical backgrounds for rare event physics searches like dark matter.  Radon also plays a role in generating unwanted backgrounds for the underground experiments.

The BS in Physics and the Minor in Nuclear Engineering prepares students either for direct employment in a nuclear career or for graduate school in Particle Physics, Health Physics, Radiochemistry, Medical Physics, Nuclear Medicine, or Nuclear Engineering.  The Department of Physics is also very interested in facilitating double-majoring that would enhance your nuclear career goals and make you more competitive in the nuclear workplace.