University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Nuclear Physics

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"My laboratory is a supernova," Yong Qian states matter-of-factly with a smile. Qian is a theoretical physicist studying neutrino oscillations, the change from one "flavor" to another as a neutrino moves through matter and space. This phenomenon occurs because a neutrino is created in one of three flavor states (or simply “flavors”), with three distinct mass states.

Asad Aboobaker

Physics of Nuclear Matter

Nuclear theorists at the University of Minnesota seek to understand the properties of dense matter under the conditions present in the early universe, in stars, and during supernovae. Data from experiments which collide nuclei at high energy, such as those at Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and soon at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), can be compared to theoretical calculations and numerical simulations to understand the dynamics of nuclear matter under extreme conditions. Theoretical effort is directed at investigating the nature of these interactions and their implications for understanding quantum chromodynamics (QCD), particularly quark-gluon plasma. Another major thrust is the study of supernova physics, including the explosion mechanism, nucleosynthesis of medium and heavy elements, and neutrino oscillation effects.

Professor Joseph Kapusta investigates matter at high energy-density. He uses relativistic quantum field theory to study high energy nuclear collisions at RHIC and LHC, phase transitions in the early universe, dense matter in neutron stars, primordial/microscopic black holes, Hawking radiation, and the anti-de Sitter space conformal field theory correspondence

Professor Yong-Zhong Qian has interests that lie at the intersection of nuclear physics and astrophysics. He studies the detailed mechanism by which the medium and heavy elements are formed in stars and in stellar explosions. He also studies neutrinos, their oscillations, and the role they play in supernovae.

Professor Alexander Heger studies the life and explosive death of massive stars and the origin of the elements, and is generally interested in nuclear astrophysics. His work comprises the study of massive and very massive stars (10-1000 solar masses); the first generations of stars in the universe (Pop III stars); evolution of rotating massive stars and the spin of their remnants; mixing and transport processes in the stellar interior; nucleosynthesis and the origin of elements, including galacto-chemical evolution - which elements are made where and when; supernovae (mechanisms and nucleosynthesis); gamma-ray bursts (collapsars and similar models) and their progenitors; modeling of Type I X-ray bursts and superbursts (thermonuclear explosions on the surface of neutron stars). Heger likes to say, "I blow up stars for a living."

Nuclear Physics Faculty

Joseph KapustaQuantum field theory at finite temperature and density with applications to high energy nuclear collisions, astrophysics, and cosmology.
Yong-Zhong QianNuclear/particle astrophysics and cosmology: neutrino oscillations and their effects in astrophysical environments, supernova explosion and nucleosynthesis, chemical evolution of galaxies

Nuclear Physics Graduate Students

Cheng-Hsien LiNeutrino oscillations with three flavors and CP violation
Pamela Sherwood