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Physics Ph.D. Student Wins Research Fellowship

Christian Shultz, a doctoral student in theoretical nuclear physics at Old Dominion University, has been awarded a Jefferson Sciences Associates/Jefferson Lab Graduate Fellowship for 2012-13.

He will receive one-half of an academic year research assistant stipend, plus up to $4,000 in supplements for such things as research-related travel. ODU will match the research assistant stipend.

Jefferson Sciences Associates (JSA) operates the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, better known as Jefferson Lab, in Newport News. The committee that selected this year's fellowship recipients was chaired by JSA Board Director June Matthews of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Altogether, seven fellowships were awarded. The other recipients are from Duke University, University of Maryland, North Carolina State University, University of South Carolina and the College of William and Mary.

The award will support Shultz's research into hybrid mesons using lattice quantum chromodynamics (QCD). QCD is the theory of quarks and gluons, the subnuclear particles that make up protons and neutrons. Gluons are the "glue" that holds quarks together.

"The word 'lattice' in front of QCD refers to the fact that we do the mathematical calculations on some of the world's largest available supercomputers," Shultz explained.

One of the main focuses of his research is the properties of the hybrid mesons, which are exotic combinations of a quark-antiquark pair and a gluonic excitation.

"They're particularly interesting as they are allowed within the framework of QCD but have yet to be experimentally observed. Part of the upcoming Gluonic Excitation Experiment (GlueX) taking place at Jefferson Lab is to try to find these hybrid mesons experimentally in order to shed light onto the role of 'glue' in QCD. My collaborators and I are working towards predicting some of the properties of these exotic combinations from lattice before they've been measured experimentally," he said.

Shultz predicted that the interplay between theoretical calculations and measurements from GlueX will provide some of the most stringent tests of QCD to date. "The experiment will inform us if we're really getting the physics right or if we need to rethink the underlying theory."

Jozef Dudek, associate professor of physics at ODU and a researcher in theoretical nuclear physics at Jefferson lab, is Shultz's research group leader. Dudek, who was the recipient last year of an Early Career Research Award of $750,000 from the Department of Energy, is a specialist in QCD.

Shultz is from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and received a bachelor's degree in physics from Union College in New York in 2008. He received a master's in physics from ODU in 2011.

Hugh Montgomery, the JSA president and Jefferson Lab director, said, "We are very pleased that we continue to attract the best and brightest students in our field to spend time at Jefferson Lab. During the year, these young researchers will become fully immersed in their research and tap into the unique capabilities of the lab. JSA's continued support for the graduate fellowship program has contributed to the lab's achievement of producing about one-third of the U.S. Ph.D.s in nuclear physics each year."

The recipients of these fellowships must attend institutions that are part of the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA), a consortium of more than 60 research universities. JSA is a company operated by SURA.