May 16, 2022

Programs

Citizen CATE Experiment

The Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) Experiment is a national team of students, citizen scientists and professional astronomers who will operate 70 or more sites across the country from Oregon to South Carolina during the total solar eclipse of 21 August 2017. As of April 1, 2017, there are 70 national sites including 7 in South Carolina. Each site will have identical equipment so that the data collected can be combined in a straightforward manner into one, large database.

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Health Physics

Health physics, also referred to as the science of radiation protection, is the field dedicated to protecting people and their environment from the potential hazards of both ionizing and nonionizing radiation, while making it possible to maximize its benefits.

The use of radiation in medicine, industry, and research is beneficial for all humankind. To assure that radiation and radioactive materials are used safely, nuclear facilities and research laboratories seek professionals who understand the risks of radiation hazards and solutions to prevent and control them. The health physics profession is an interesting and rewarding field of scientific endeavor and incorporates an understanding of many disciplines. In order to pursue a career in health physics, students must have a basic education in physical science plus training in specific areas. To qualify for professional status, a health physicist needs at least a BS degree in science, engineering, or health science with specialized courses in physics, mathematics, chemistry, nuclear engineering, radiation biology, radiological health, and occupational health.

As part of the undergraduate research project, students investigate principles by which radiation interacts with matter and living systems. They also study environmental levels of radioactivity and the effects of radiation on biological systems on earth and in space. This information is used in many ways, ranging from designing radiation detection instrumentation to establishing radiation protection standards.


Medical Physics

Medical physics is the application of physics concepts in medicine and health care. A medical physicist may specialize in areas such as medical imaging, radiology, radiation therapies, health physics, and nuclear medicine.

Research is an essential part of the medical physics program at SC State. Each student will be involved in a research project over the course of the time in the program. While student research projects are generally basic science in nature, we expect to expand our program and will offer more opportunities in clinical research in future. In collaboration with local and regional hospitals and cancer centers in the Columbia area, the research is designed for individuals who wish to be educated in therapeutic and imaging medical physics.


Nuclear Structure Physics

As the name implies, nuclear structure physics is the study of atomic nuclei, which are made of various combinations of nucleons (protons and neutrons). An excited nucleus may decay by emitting some kind of particle, undergoing fission, or by rapidly emitting a sequence of γ-rays. In these processes, the nucleus loses not only energy, but also angular momentum. In the latter case, it is favorable for the nucleus to send away γ-rays with a large energy, but with as little angular momentum as possible. By this one can conclude that the most favorable way for the nucleus to decay is along the so called yrast line, which is defined as a sequence of all the states with the highest angular momentum for a given energy.

Like a liquid drop, an excited nuclei can rotate as a collective whole along three principal axes. If the lengths of all axes are identical, the nucleus is shaped like a basketball; its shells are full of nucleons. If one axis is longer than two other equal axes, the nucleus is deformed into the shape of an American football; its shells are only partially filled. If all three axes are of different lengths, the result is a triaxial shape like a deflated football. Evidence for this triaxial shape remains scarce and debated. 

In the field of nuclear structure, gamma and beta-decays are important tools to study the shapes of different nuclei. Nuclear levels and transition features such as the energy, intensity, parity, transition probability and the arrangement of transitions among the excited states are studied to increase our understanding of nuclear structure physics. The depth and detail of our understanding of nuclear structure physics is in part contingent upon our knowledge of the excited nuclear states.

Figure: Fusion-evaporated reaction

Robotically Controlled Telescope

SCSU is a charter members of the RCT Consortium which has taken over management of the 1.3-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, approximately 50 miles west of Tucson, Arizona. The telescope is currently being refurbished in order to make it robotic. When fully operational, the telescope will be capable of observing in any one of three modes, manually on-site, remotely in real time over the Internet, or robotically without human intervention.

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SC Space Grant Consortium

South Carolina State University is a founding member of the NASA South Carolina Space Grant Consortium (SCSGC), formed in 1991 with four member institutions. The Consortium has since grown to include 14 member institutions comprising a balanced mix of four-year colleges and research universities in South Carolina and the US Virgin Islands. Within the larger context of national science and technology initiatives, Space Grant promotes activity in research, education, and public service related to NASA with a primary goal to increase access, understanding, development, and utilization of resources in NASA’s four Mission Directorates.

As a member of the SCSGC, SC State students and faculty are eligible to participate in a variety of activities related to NASA and STEM education in general. The Consortium offers a variety of competitive research and educational awards to both students and faculty at member institutions who are US Citizens. Examples of recent opportunities include undergraduate research fellowships, STEM outreach awards, and faculty research grants.

SC State has selected Dr. Jennifer Cash to serve as the current Campus Director to the SCSGC. Her role includes representing SC State in all strategic planning, advertising research and scholarship opportunities to the campus, reviewing applications for programs funded by SCSGC, and conducting NASA related education and outreach programs on campus and to the surrounding communities.

Additional information about SCSGC can be found at the program’s website: https://scspacegrant.cofc.edu/

Additional questions about SC State’s participation in the NASA Space Grant Consortium can be directed to: Dr. Jennifer Cash, jcash@scsu.edu


​Time Domain Astrophysical Collaboration (TDAC)

 The Time Domain Astrophysical Collaboration (TDAC) is a partnership of two Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) who have combined their astrophysical resources to significantly increase scientific productivity and move both schools forward into the growing field of time domain and multi-messenger astrophysics. Each institution is contributing to the partnership in a way that will allow them to do much more together than could be done alone.   

South Carolina State University (SCSU) and the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) have both been involved in education and research in astronomy for many years.  In addition to contributing to a better scientific understanding of astrophysical phenomenon, they are helping to improve diversity in the field through the education and  training of students from underrepresented populations who will move on to careers in scientific and technical disciplines. 

SCSU is a partner in another consortium which manages the 1.3 meter Robotically Controlled Telescope located at Kitt Peak National Observatory outside of Tucson, Arizona.  UVI manages the Etelman Observatory on the island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  It is the southernmost and easternmost optical observatory in the United States and includes the 0.5 meter Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope (VIRT).   Among the VIRT’s primary science drivers is the optical follow-up to Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) detected by the NASA satellite observatories Swift- and Fermi.  The VIRT and Etelman Observatory were contributors to the global network of observatories that covered the optical afterglow associated with the LIGO-detected gravitational wave (GW) event GW 170817 in August 2017 resulting from the collision of two neutron stars. 

One of the major goals of TDAC is to have the RCT and VIRT carryout coordinated follow-up observations of unexpected, short lived, astrophysical events known as transients, which include GRBs, supernovae, cataclysmic variables and others.  While these events are often first detected by large telescopes or space-based observatories, the TDAC will be able to dedicate more long-term observing time to these objects while the other facilities are pressed to move on to other discoveries.  Additionally, the large separation in longitude between Arizona and the Virgin Islands means that coordinated TDAC observing of the same object will give greater time coverage of an event than a single observatory. 

RCT dome at Kitt Peak
RCT inside the dome
Etelman Observatory at US Virgin Islands
VIRT in Etelman Observatory