An Oregon State University faculty member has been selected as the deputy director of a $25 million, 16-university consortium tasked with educating the next generation of nuclear forensic scientists while researching new technology for nuclear security and nonproliferation.
Camille Palmer, associate professor in the College of Engineering, will lead the OSU effort and serve as deputy director of the entire project, which includes two other College of Engineering faculty, Todd Palmer and Raviv Raich.
Oregon State will receive $2.5 million over the next five years for its role in the consortium, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
“It’s exciting and a huge honor to be selected as a leader in this very important mission,” Camille Palmer said. “It’s fantastic recognition for OSU and the college, our students as well as our faculty and staff, and it is the culture of collaboration within the College of Engineering that makes this work exceptionally impactful and rewarding.”
Nuclear forensics is the science of investigating nuclear materials for evidence regarding the materials’ source, trafficking, enrichment and intended use. The material can range from dust near a nuclear facility to debris following a nuclear explosion.
Jim Baciak of the University of Florida is the director of the consortium, made up of 31 scientists and engineers in the fields of analytical chemistry, radiochemistry, environmental sciences, geochemistry, nuclear engineering, physics, statistical analysis, machine learning and optical sciences.
The team’s goal is to prepare 135 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students to help federal laboratories throughout the United States address current and future needs in nuclear forensics.
“OSU is eager to contribute to this critically important research area and help nurture the next generation of nuclear forensics scientists and engineers,” Camille Palmer said.
The consortium will focus on five areas: rapid turnaround forensics, advanced analytical methods, ultrasensitive measurements, signature discovery, and prompt effects and measurements. The goals include shortening chemical analysis to 24 hours or less, developing improved microscopy techniques, finding better ways to investigate low-level radiation signals and gaining a deeper understanding of the signals given off following a nuclear detonation.
The consortium will collaborate with staff scientists and engineers from seven Department of Energy national laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, Sandia and Savannah River.
The other participating universities are the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Central Florida; City University of New York; Clemson University; George Washington University; Iowa State University; the University of Michigan; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; North Carolina State University; the University of Notre Dame; Penn State; South Carolina State University; the University of Tennessee, and Texas A&M.