(Johnson City) East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Robert Pattie has won an impressive grant ultimately aimed at enhancing humanity’s basic understanding of the universe.
The $320,000 grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation, will allow Pattie and several students in the university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy to travel to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
But a considerable amount of the work – building equipment, simulating experiments and analyzing data – will happen on ETSU’s main campus over the next three years.
Pattie works in the world of subatomic physics, and has spent considerable time researching slow ultracold neutrons. Those are neutrons with extremely low energy that allow researchers to trap them in material, magnetic or gravitational “bottles” for long periods of time, enabling precision measurements of fundamental processes of the neutron.
The grant will help Pattie and his students further hone these ultracold neutrons with a goal of unprecedented accuracy in probing a range of physical phenomena.
“Not only does that help us understand current technology, but this rate determines the light-element abundance in the early universe, a key input in the Big Bang model of cosmic evolution,” Pattie said.
Pattie earned a Ph.D. in experimental nuclear physics in 2012 at North Carolina State University. He has been an assistant professor at ETSU since 2018.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for ETSU,” said Pattie. “We are honored to win this important grant.”