U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
DOMESTIC NUCLEAR DETECTION OFFICE
Undergraduate Scholarship Program
ACADEMIC YEAR: 2016-2017
Student Application Deadline: February 1, 2016
The student application deadline has been extended to
February 15, 2016
Awards Announced: March 2016
Administered by the South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation
This program description was prepared under Cooperative Agreement 2012-DN-130-NF0001 between the United States Department of Homeland Security and the South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) established the Nuclear Forensics Undergraduate Scholarship Program (NFUSP) in 2011 to provide scholarships to qualified undergraduate students pursuing degrees in disciplines relevant to technical nuclear forensics, including physics, chemistry, nuclear engineering, and material science.
Nuclear forensics is a top U.S. national security priority. Congress recognized the critical need for first-rate nuclear forensics experts to support this mission in the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act (P.L. 111-140), which the President signed on February 16, 2010. In addition, world leaders highlighted the importance of international nuclear forensics cooperation during the 2010, 2012, and 2014 Nuclear Security Summits. Developing and sustaining an enduring expertise pipeline and workforce is one of the most important objectives of the nuclear forensics community today.
As a key component of the broader National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program (NNFEDP), the NFUSP enables highly motivated students to gain hands-on experience through summer research opportunities at the Department of Energy national laboratories, including close interaction with technical experts throughout the national nuclear forensics community. Another benefit of the program is that it exposes scholars to future opportunities in nuclear forensics, such as the Nuclear Forensics Graduate Fellowship Program. The NFUSP aims to build a viable student career path in nuclear forensics in order to cultivate the next generation of highly qualified scientists in this critically important field.
Technical nuclear forensics (TNF) addresses a diverse set of topics related to the collection, analysis, and evaluation of pre-detonation (intact) and post-detonation (exploded) radiological or nuclear materials, devices, and debris, as well as the immediate effects created by a nuclear detonation. Research and development (R&D) in TNF requires many scientific and technical disciplines to encompass this range of topics. Four broad Technical Mission Areas (TMAs) describe the focus of R&D goals: 1) Pre-Detonation Material and Device Signatures, 2) Pre-Detonation Analysis Methods and Tools, 3) Post-Detonation Material Collection and Analysis Methods, and 4) Post-Detonation Prompt Signal Analysis. A brief overview of each TMA is provided below.
TMA 1. Pre-Detonation Material and Signature Devices: Physical, chemical, and isotopic characteristics of a radiological or nuclear material can be used to determine aspects of the material's history and are therefore important to nuclear forensics. In general, a nuclear forensic signature is a set of measurable characteristics that points to the origin or history of a sample, and may specifically include or exclude the sample from a specific class or category of materials. Physical signatures may include morphology, texture, size, and shape of a material or parts of the device. Chemical signatures may include the elemental or molecular form of the material (e.g., uranium dioxide, plutonium oxalate) and abundances of impurities in the sample. Isotopic signatures reflect the isotopic composition of a sample (indicating its enrichment, burnup, intended or actual use) and may be used to derive the time since the material was last processed chemically. The R&D focus in these areas includes production, acquisition, and/or retrieval of radiological and nuclear materials of historical interest; laboratory analysis of the materials to document their characteristics; development of production and processing models relating processing parameters (chemical, physical, engineering, machining) to observed product characteristics; assessment of which characteristics persist through (or are modified by) various stages of the production, storage, and transport processes; development of libraries of material characteristics; and ultimately evaluation of material characteristics (or combination of characteristics) for their uniqueness or value as nuclear forensics signatures.
TMA 2. Pre-Detonation Analysis Methods and Tools: While current methods of sample analysis and data interpretation provide a highly sophisticated level of material characterization and classification, even more advanced methods are requested to identify new signatures and enable new insights into material provenance. R&D priorities in this area include development of new laboratory analytical methods for determination of spatially and/or temporally distinct features in radiological and nuclear materials; analytical methods that enable determination of new (i.e., previously unrecognized) characteristics and signatures in rad/nuc materials; mathematical and statistical methods to identify and evaluate correlated material characteristics; modeling and simulation tools to predict forward and inverse relationships between physical/chemical material production processes and measurable characteristics; data visualization methods to enable improved interpretation of data relationships; and data management and knowledge capture tools to enable efficient storage, retrieval, and interpretation of diverse sets of material information.
TMA 3. Post-Detonation Material Collection and Analysis Methods: Post-detonation material R&D explores novel methods and advancements in the ability to collect samples of material, analyze radioactive debris, and identify signatures from debris analysis. The overall goal is to obtain accurate debris characterization more rapidly than is currently possible, and to do so in all environments and conditions. Chronologically, this starts with targeted airborne and ground collection methods that are robust under a wide variety of adverse conditions. Methods with the potential to enable remote characterization and quantification of airborne debris are of interest, as are methods that combine collection and analysis, and field deployable systems, with real-time analysis capability. Following sample collection, improved methods are sought for rapid dissolution and pre-concentration of post-detonation debris using environmentally friendly, potentially field deployable, techniques on a reasonable time scale. The R&D focus for sample analysis includes non-destructive analytical techniques; innovations that rapidly identify and quantify elemental and isotopic constituents (major, minor, and trace) in fresh radioactive fallout debris; and fundamental phenomenology of laser spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and associated ionization methods. Improvements are also sought in data handling methodologies for compiling, assessing, and interpreting large sets of data; advancing the treatment of data uncertainties; and improving databases of physical constants, such as nuclear cross sections, decay branching ratios, or nuclear energy levels relevant to nuclear forensic analysis.
TMA 4. Post-Detonation Prompt Signal Analysis: : Post-detonation prompt signal analysis explores R&D that may enable accurate knowledge of the specifics of a nuclear device (e.g., special nuclear material type and mass, device sophistication, etc.) after a detonation. Ideally this knowledge would be available in as short a time as possible with a high degree of confidence. This topic investigates basic physical research on the prompt signatures of nuclear explosive events, such as novel methods for yield determination, device reaction history, or the radiation outputs of these nuclear explosions. Research could focus on the understanding of unique identifiers of these explosions, measurements of these identifiers, or other topics. In this context, prompt signatures indicate those which can be measured instantaneously to within a few days after the event. These signatures are generally separate from radiochemical signatures.
The federal agencies that sponsor R&D in these technical mission areas include the Department of Homeland Security/Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DHS/DNDO), the Department of Defense Defense/Threat Reduction Agency (DoD/DTRA), and the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA). Website links are provided below to facilitate learning more about programs and research solicitations in each of these organizations.
The student application deadline has been extended to Febraury 15, 2016.
Students pursuing undergraduate degrees in analytical, geological, or radiochemistry; nuclear physics or engineering; computer science, physics, mathematics, or materials science, are eligible to apply.
All applicants must be U.S. citizens. It is the policy of DHS and its program administrator, the South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation (SCUREF), to recruit and nominate participants without regard to race, age, gender, religion, color, national origin, physical or mental disability, or special disabled or veteran status.
The current competition cycle for this program is from November 2015 to February 1, 2016. SCUREF must receive all parts of the application by February 1, 2016. ACT/SAT scores are required for a complete application. Scores earned before 2005 will not be accepted. SCUREF will not process late and/or incomplete applications. Please include the scholarship program name on all correspondence.
A complete application includes the following components:
Three (3) References
Proof of U.S. Citizenship (copy of birth certificate or U.S. passport)
Forms are located at www.scuref.org/forms under the NFUSP tab. Applicants should submit all materials electronically through the SCUREF website. If you are unable to submit the application electronically, you may mail completed application materials to the following address:
South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation
Nuclear Forensics Undergraduate Scholarship Program
1204 Whiskey Road, Suite F
Aiken, South Carolina 29803-4322
EVALUATION OF APPLICATIONS
SCUREF performs an initial review of applications to ensure all requested information is included. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that his or her application is complete. After the application deadline, SCUREF will distribute the 2016 NFUSP applications to an independent panel for review. Panel members are technical experts from the DOE national laboratories who are intimately involved in the U.S. Government nuclear forensics program.
The panel, comprised of representatives from the national laboratories, evaluates applications based on academic performance, relevant coursework, ACT/SAT scores, career and goals statements, and references. Additionally, other factors including the specific mission needs of the United States nuclear forensics research program are also considered. The number of scholarships awarded annually is contingent on the availability of funding.
The panel then provides award recommendations to SCUREF. SCUREF submits the panel's recommendations to the program sponsor for consideration. DHS/DNDO conducts a final review of the applications and the panel's recommendations and selects the official NFUSP award recipients. SCUREF will announce award recipients and notify all applicants in March 2016.
SCUREF is responsible for the daily administration of the NFUSP on behalf of the program sponsor; as such, SCUREF assists the scholars, laboratories, and universities with questions regarding stipends, laboratory assignments, travel, and related issues.
Scholars shall participate in a nine-to-12-week summer appointment at a national laboratory, performing study and research within the objectives of the DHS/DNDO nuclear forensics mission. DHS will identify faculty and laboratory mentors to work directly with the scholars, and SCUREF will lead the coordination of ongoing NFUSP activities on behalf of DHS. During the summer laboratory assignment, the scholar will develop a clear statement of a problem, conduct a review of literature related to this problem, and perform research utilizing laboratory methodology and protocol. The scholar, with the assistance of a laboratory mentor, will begin drafting a technical report within the summer work period. Additionally, scholars will be asked to attend the annual NNFEDP Academic-Laboratory Collaboration Meeting over the summer to network with the broader nuclear forensics community, including technical and policy experts from academia, the national laboratories, and the federal government. Under the tutelage of a university faculty advisor during the fall term, the scholar will revise the draft scientific report into final form. By the end of the fall term, the scholar will deliver an oral presentation of the research to the university and laboratory staff and the DHS sponsors. The NFUSP also encourages scholars to present the results of their research at events hosted by relevant professional organizations including, but not limited to, the American Chemical Society and the American Nuclear Society.
Scholars must provide copies of their research and a written evaluation of their experience to SCUREF. SCUREF will provide this information to the participating laboratories for review and comment, and will submit the final version to DHS.
TERMS OF APPOINTMENT
NFUSP appointments are part of the NNFEDP, codified in the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act (P.L. 111-140). Scholars are required to acknowledge specific terms of appointment in accordance with this law. Applicants may request the full terms and conditions of this agreement by contacting SCUREF, and these terms will be included for review and signature in successful applicants' official appointment documents.
Throughout the period of appointment, scholarship recipients must be enrolled full-time at a U.S. college or university. The scholars will enroll in a "research credit" course during the fall term, during which time they will write and present a technical report detailing their research. The scholarship recipient is expected to maintain a high level of academic standing, complete the nine-to-12-week research practicum at a Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory, and deliver a written and oral presentation of the research results.
Upon completion of the program, SCUREF expects scholars to complete annual surveys to enable the federal sponsor to continually assess and evaluate the NFUSP.
The scholar will receive a stipend of $10,000 to support his or her summer research appointment at a national laboratory and project completion during the fall term. The NFUSP may provide additional funding to the scholar for travel costs associated with performing laboratory work and participating in technical meetings. SCUREF will allocate stipend and travel payments directly to the scholar. All awards and travel support are subject to the continuing availability of funds.
If funding exists, faculty mentors may be eligible for a $2,000 allowance to cover partial salary or other expenses associated with this scholarship. NFUSP faculty mentors can contact the SCUREF office to request an eligibility form.
- Nuclear Forensics Undergraduate Scholarship Program