Institute for Nuclear Studies

The Institute for Nuclear Studies (INS) is a university-sponsored Center of Excellence. The INS provides the organizational umbrella for all research efforts in nuclear physics in the Department of Physics at The George Washington University. The basic objective of these efforts is to contribute to the world's understanding of the dynamics and structure of nuclear matter, whether at the level of the atomic nucleus itself, at the subnuclear level of nucleons and mesons within the atomic nucleus, or even at the sub-subnuclear level where one deals with elementary constituents of nucleons and mesons. This objective is pursued both experimentally and theoretically, with an equal balance between experiment and theory. On the experimental side, it requires devising experiments where one bombards nuclei with various probes – for example, electromagnetic radiation, electrons, mesons, protons, or other nuclei – and measures the resulting final fragments to gain information about the forces acting both between the constituents of the targets and between projectiles and targets. On the theoretical side, this interpretation of experimental findings requires the guidance of dynamical theories that provide models for the reactions under scrutiny, making predictions as to their possible outcome. It is the iterative process of theoretical predictions and subsequent experimental findings, leading in turn to more refined theoretical descriptions and hence better predictions, which drive the quest for knowledge in physics.

The various research projects of the Institute's members are carried out in collaboration with colleagues from around the world, with experiments taking place at several North American and European laboratories. Many of the current and future projects are geared to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab) at Newport News, VA. JLab is the world's premier electron accelerator for nuclear physics, and GW is one of the charter members of the governing body of JLab, the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA). INS physics faculty have been involved in the planning of JLab from the very beginning. Other experiments under GW leadership are being carried out at the Mainz Microtron in Germany and anticipated at MAX-lab in Lund, Sweden.

The relatively large number of nuclear physicists at GW – one of the largest university-based nuclear-physics groups in the nation – makes the INS a very congenial work environment with a high degree of interaction between theorists and experimentalists pursuing the common goal of unraveling the laws governing nuclear reactions. This also provides a unique opportunity for students at both graduate and undergraduate levels to become involved in internationally recognized research at a very early stage, giving them a 'hands-on' learning experience at the forefront of basic research.