March 18, 2019

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a three-year $263,780 grant to physics professors at The Catholic University of America to establish a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

The REU site award, which is funded by NSF’s Division of Physics in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, supports the training of six to eight undergraduate students per year for 10 weeks during the summers of 2020-2022. The program is designed to engage students who would otherwise not have the opportunity for research experiences, including those from non-research universities.

Students in the program will participate in active and diverse research activities. They will also learn about what it takes to become a researcher, how to apply to graduate school, and possible careers in academia and beyond.

Physics Professors Tanja Horn and Ian Pegg are the Co-Principal Investigators (PIs) for the award. Their winning proposal leveraged their experience with the University’s Vitreous State Laboratory (VSL) summer internship program that has trained nearly 200 students since 2009. Horn has also provided research opportunities in nuclear physics for several students each summer supported by her research grants.

Pegg, the director of VSL, said this new research program will address the need for U.S. students who can pursue careers in the STEM fields. “That requires opportunities for undergraduate students to be engaged in work at the forefront of scientific research,” he said.

The new REU program includes specific research projects and mentorships that the PIs developed with physics professors Biprodas Dutta, Grzegorz Kalicy, John Philip, Lorenzo Resca, and Abhijit Sarkar, along with VSL scientists Father Andrew Buechele, Nicholas Mecholsky, and Isabelle Muller.

Students involved in the program will be split into several teams and given faculty mentors as they conduct cutting-edge physics research in areas to include nuclear physics and new detector materials, condensed matter physics, glassy materials, and biophysics.

The summer program will begin with a research boot camp; providing courses and seminars on laboratory safety, scientific ethics, graduate school, career advising, diversity and inclusion, and hands-on experience with advanced instrumentation and measurement techniques. The program will also include research excursions to facilities such as Jefferson Laboratory and the National Institutes of Health.

“The new REU program is designed to promote the development of future scientists through direct engagement with real scientific problems in the lab and the formation of meaningful relationships with faculty and students participating in the program,” said Horn. “The program will stimulate students’ interest in physics and technical research by engaging them in real physics research and training them in state-of-the art research methods and techniques.”

To find out more information about Catholic University’s NSF-REU program, visit