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The NXS Class of 2014

by Kathy Chambers on Wed, November 19, 2014

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Every summer for the past 16 years, the Department of Energy has invited the best and brightest graduates from across the country to attend the National School on Neutron and X-ray Scattering (NXS). This year, 65 graduate students attending North American universities, and studying physics, chemistry, materials science, or related fields, participated in the 14-day whirlwind emersion into national user facilities to learn in a hands-on environment how to use neutrons and X-rays in their research.  This educational program is jointly conducted by Argonne National Laboratory's Advanced Photon Source and Materials Science Division and Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Neutron Scattering Science Division.

Every material’s physical and chemical properties are determined by how the atoms of its different chemical elements are bound together and arranged.  X-ray scattering has been used to gather clues about materials’ atomic structures for about a century.  Once reactors were built that could provide intense neutron beams, researchers began to use scattered neutron beams to more clearly see different aspects of the atomic structures.  These scattering experiments have produced important developments in preventing hydrocarbon deposits in automobile engines, in improving manufacturing techniques to make products stronger, in developing antiviral compounds, and in the search for superconductors.

The scope of the NXS educational program is immense.  The DOE Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences program has a leading role in financing the construction and operation of large user facilities producing X-rays and neutrons that offer outstanding research capabilities in a wide variety of scientific fields. Thousands of scientists from universities, industry, and national laboratories use these facilities, but few educational courses prepare young researchers to take their place.  To address this need, DOE funds the NXS School to help grow a next-generation user community.

Students of the NXS class of 2014 talked about their experiences at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source and Oak Ridge's Spallation Neutron Source and High Flux Isotope Reactor facilities.  They were treated as real users and allowed to bring their own samples of their work for analysis.  They obtained data sets and went home with completed experiments.  Lectures, presented by researchers from academia, industry, and national laboratories, included basic tutorials on the principles of scattering theory and the characteristics of the sources, as well as seminars on the application of scattering methods, and a variety of other scientific subjects.  These students interacted and collaborated and built future networks and friendships.  They were excited about what they had learned and how they could apply it to their research.  They will most likely return to these user facilities.

During the month of November, the Office of Scientific and Technical Information is showcasing Neutron Sources for Studying Matter.  The recent white paper In the OSTI Collections: Neutron Sources for Studying Matter, by Dr. William Watson, is about neutron source technology and research organizations and facilities.  There are also over 13,500 research results found for the terms “neutron scattering” in the SciTech Connect database.  Additional neutron scientific and technical information can be found in OSTI’s Catalogue of Collections.

Page last updated on 2017-03-21 10:25

About the Author

Kathy Chambers's picture
Kathy Chambers
Technical Writer, Information International Associates, Inc.