by Gail Dodge

Caleb Fogler and Mariana Tenorio Pita, both Ph.D. students in nuclear physics at Old Dominion University, traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the nuclear science Long Range Plan Advocacy Day on Nov. 8. They were among dozens of nuclear scientists who came from all over the country to inform members of Congress about the 2023 Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science, titled "A New Era of Discovery.” The plan was recently released after a yearlong process involving the entire Nuclear Science Community in the U.S. 

Traveling with Fogler and Tenorio-Pita was Gail Dodge, Dean of ODU’s College of Sciences. She chaired the committee that developed the plan and participated in the advocacy day as well. The committee Dodge led was tasked with advising the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) on research priorities in fundamental nuclear science.  

“It was very important to have graduate students participate as part of the advocacy day on Capitol Hill,” said Dodge. “Caleb and Mariana did a great job explaining the importance of their research for science and also the data science/machine learning skills that they are acquiring. Graduate students trained in nuclear science are in high demand at national labs and in industry.”

The doctoral students were able to participate in this event because of generous support from the ODU Educational Foundation. 

Tenorio-Pita enjoyed the experience of going to Capitol Hill. “It was a very positive experience for me to participate in such an important event for the nuclear community. The Long Range Plan for Nuclear Science has a significant impact in the professional trajectory of STEM graduate students, myself included. For this reason, it was crucial for me to make people aware of this plan. My impression was that the Congressional staff we met with were very receptive to hear about the significance of this document and our research experiences.”

Fogler benefited from the opportunity to talk to the congressional staff. “We explained how carrying out the Long Range Plan would benefit science, technology, and industry for the United States generally and for Virginia particularly. We also discussed how graduate researchers like Mariana and me would gain skills necessary for the workforce. The staffers showed an interest in what we had to say and asked good questions. I believe they understand the importance of the Long Range Plan, and I hope this leads to support for funding nuclear science in the future.”

Both Fogler and Tenorio-Pita had meetings with staff from the offices of Congressman Bobby Scott, Senator Warner, and Senator Kaine, in addition to other Virginia Congressional staffers.  All of the Virginia delegation are strong supporters of Jefferson Lab, a premiere user facility for nuclear physics and the location of the recently announced High Performance Data Facility Hub

Old Dominion University has one of the largest nuclear physics groups in the country and is a major partner with Jefferson Lab, not only in nuclear and accelerator physics, but more recently in data science.