December 10, 2020


Jefferson Science Associates (JSA) announced the award of 10 graduate fellowships to doctoral candidates for the 2020-2021 academic year. Among the recipients is CatholicU physics researcher Richard Trotta, who is one of three repeat winners of the fellowship. 

The fellowships support students’ advanced studies at their universities and research at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab), a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear physics research laboratory managed and operated by JSA, a joint venture between SURA (Southeastern Universities Research Association) and PAE.

“The nuclear physics courses I've taken at Catholic University have given me the initial educational background required for understanding these complex topics and the deep discussions I've had with the members of the nuclear physics group and also various members of the facility has opened my mind to different approaches for tackling problems,” says Trotta. 

Trotta’s research proposal will use electron beams to probe the structure of the atom, i.e. the nuclear force. Essentially all of the visible matter in the universe consists of particles bound by the nuclear force. It is one of the thrusts of 21st century physics research to understand the nuclear force in terms of the fundamental constituents: the quarks and gluons. 

Experimentally, one cannot isolate the quarks and gluons, but one can infer their properties from experiments on nuclei. Trotta's project focuses specifically on sophisticated measurements of the K meson (“kaon”), which plays an essential role in understanding the structure and properties of the atomic nucleus.

“We continue to see the excitement of young researchers in Jefferson Lab’s 12 GeV science program. These fellowships provide the opportunity for students to collaborate with scientists and mentors to make research contributions to Jefferson Lab while pursuing their academic careers,” said Jefferson Lab Deputy Director for Science & Technology Robert McKeown. 

Fellowship recipients are chosen based on the quality of their research proposals, their academic standing, and the references of their professors and senior scientists at Jefferson Lab. Students will continue their coursework while enhancing their academic experience with direct interactions and participation with mentors and scientists at the laboratory.

“Richard is an outstanding student and young scientist,” said Tanja Horn, professor of physics, who is serving as Trotta’s adviser. “This enabled him to succeed in becoming one of the few repeat winners competing with other students from Tier One research universities. The JSA Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for students to directly work at the forefront of nuclear science at an internationally renowned facility in the United States. CatholicU’s proximity and research ties to the Nuclear Physics group to Jefferson Lab allows students to have a direct impact on the science program.”

University of Maryland Associate Provost Elizabeth Beise, who chairs the Jefferson Lab Committee, commented, “This year’s 10 fellowship recipients are among the top Ph.D. students in SURA universities.” The SURA Board of Trustees first established the fellowship program in 1989. The program, now supported by the JSA Initiatives Fund, contributes to the student’s research assistant stipend.

All fellowship recipients attend universities that are members of SURA, a consortium of 60 leading research universities. Since the program’s inception, 235 fellowships have been awarded to students from 22 different SURA member universities. SURA built and operated Jefferson Lab, before becoming a partner of Jefferson Science Associates.