News & Events

Paper: Secondary Proton Buildup in Space Radiation Shielding

26 February 2024 — Dr. Joel DeWitt recently authored a new paper titled Secondary Proton Buildup in Space Radiation Shielding in the journal Life Sciences in Space Research:

The risk posed by prolonged exposure to space radiation represents a significant obstacle to long-duration human space exploration. Of the ion species present in the galactic cosmic ray spectrum, relativistic protons are the most abundant and as such are a relevant point of interest with regard to the radiation protection of space crews involved in future long-term missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This work compared the shielding effectiveness of a number of standard and composite materials relevant to the design and development of future spacecraft or planetary surface habitats. Absorbed dose was measured using Al2O3:C optically stimulated luminescence dosimeters behind shielding targets of varying composition and depth using the 1 GeV nominal energy proton beam available at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Absorbed dose scored from computer simulations performed using the multi-purpose Monte Carlo radiation transport code FLUKA agrees well with measurements obtained via the shielding experiments. All shielding materials tested and modeled in this study were unable to reduce absorbed dose below that measured by the (unshielded) front detector, even after depths as large as 30 g/cm2. These results could be noteworthy given the broad range of proton energies present in the galactic cosmic ray spectrum, and the potential health and safety hazard such space radiation could represent to future human space exploration.

Dr. Francis A.M. Manno Awarded Grant by the Office of Naval Research

16 February 2024 — The Office of Naval Research has awarded Dr. Francis A.M. Manno and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences at Greenville a $648,000 grant to offer STEM experiences for K-12 students in eastern North Carolina. This collaboration between East Carolina University and A Time for Science aims to propel young minds into science by introducing them to basic physics concepts and lab-based instruction. The program will provide a boost for students in schools that may lack teachers specializing in STEM-related fields.

Colloquium: The QCD Critical Point

14 February 2024 — This Friday, February 16 at 3:15 p.m. will feature Professor Thomas Schaefer from NC State University, where he will present The QCD Critical Point:

I summarize arguments that suggest that the phase diagram of QCD, the theory of quarks and gluons, has a critical endpoint which is analogous to the endpoint of the water-vapor transition. I will argue that this point can be searched for in collisions of relativistic heavy ions. The main observables are fluctuation measurements, and the expected signatures are related to critical opalescence. I summarize the ongoing theoretical and experimental efforts devoted to observing signatures of critical fluctuations. I argue that along the way, we have gained new insights into an old theory, fluid dynamics.

The presentation will be held in room N109 of the Howell Science Complex building. Please join us via Webex if you are unable to attend in person.

Colloquium: Learning Biochemically Accurate Models of Gene Regulatory Dynamics from Single-Cell Multi-Omic Data

31 January 2024 — This Friday, February 2 at 3:15 p.m. will feature Professor Josh Welch from the University of Michigan, where he will present Learning Biochemically Accurate Models of Gene Regulatory Dynamics from Single-Cell Multi-Omic Data:

Modeling the temporal gene expression changes that drive cell fate transitions in differentiation and reprogramming is a fundamental goal of molecular biology. The state-of-the-art experimental technologies for measuring single-cell gene expression and epigenomic state can only measure each cell at one time point, requiring sophisticated computational approaches to reconstruct gene regulatory dynamics. Toward this goal, we developed VeloVAE, a deep neural network that uses single-cell sequencing data to learn the parameters of a chemical master equation coupled over thousands of genes. We also extended VeloVAE to incorporate paired single-cell epigenome and expression data and model spatial coupling among neighboring cells within a tissue. Our work lays a foundation for biochemically accurate predictive models of cell fate transitions in healthy and diseased cells.

The presentation will be held in room N109 of the Howell Science Complex building. Please join us via Webex if you are unable to attend in person.

Biomedical Physics Student to Lead Workshops at Clemson University

19 December 2023 — Ms. Yara Maayah will be the speaker for the workshops “Mentor/Mentee Relationships” and “Life as a Graduate Student” at Clemson University as part of the APS Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics.