nEXO student trainees Shannon Hoang, Jiries Kaileh, Madeleine McSwain, Brendan Murtagh and physics professors Emilie Hein and Kolo Wamba represented Skyline College nEXO group at two national conferences in October.


The Skyline nEXO team attended a number of sessions at the Fall 2021 Meeting of the American Physics Society (APS), Division of Nuclear Physics (DNP) taking place October 11-14, 2021. Some of the sessions focused on recent developments in Nuclear Physics, including many updates from nEXO collaborators. Other sessions focused on diversity and inclusion in Nuclear Physics.


Professor Hein was honored to represent the Skyline nEXO group during a session entitled The Next Generation Nuclear Workforce. Other presenters also reported on their work done under the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Undergraduate Research Traineeship to Broaden and Diversify Nuclear Physics (TBD – NP), but Skyline College was the only community college represented. We seized this opportunity and used it to showcase the amazing, important and complex work that our students have been able to accomplish, and make the case  for community college students to be considered  more often for internship programs at other institutions as a way of diversifying in the field.


An important takeaway from the final town hall meeting of the conference was the importance that the U.S. DOE is now putting on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). It was acknowledged that an endemic problem of discrimination against women exists in the Nuclear Physics community, with offenses ranging from micro-aggressions to criminal sexual assault. In addition to the pointed warnings of  grave consequences for anyone who continues to engage in the offending behaviours or witnesses them without reporting them, it was also announced that the DOE is considering amending its program funding application process to require applicants to outline a DEI plan as a compulsory component  of every submitted proposal.  All of these developments are most welcome, and long overdue.


The Skyline nEXO group also participated in the 2021 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM (NDiSTEM) Digital Conference October 25-29. Shannon Hoang, Jiries Kaileh, Madeleine McSwain, Brendan Murtagh received scholarships from SACNAS to attend the conference and present posters on their work on nEXO.


Shannon has continued working on her project with assisting the SLAC Rn-still by calibrating a scale to help monitor the liquid Xenon for any changes in activity. She has also made a poster detailing themes in DEI using her podcast platform (@badatm4th) by interviewing team members of nEXO at SLAC and Stanford.


Jiries’s poster was about the investigation of electronic technology to be used for benchtop data acquisition systems at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. His poster overviewed the tests of the technology and what they indicated about their effectiveness for potential neutrinoless double beta decay capture.


Madeleine presented her work developing a more reliable and precise control setup for the XPM laser shutter, including the recorded experimental results as well as the theoretical results predicted in her further research.


Brendan’s poster was about his research on restoring the performance of damaged quartz optical fibers. His poster covered the theory behind the experiment, the experimental process, the results, and what further testing needs to be conducted.


In addition to the poster presentations, the Skyline nEXO team participated in many of the parallel breakout sessions.  The topic covered included exploring the universe with NASA, science communication and DEI, communicating science to diverse audiences, and lifting up the voices of individuals with disabilities in STEM.  A major highlight of the conference was the excellent presentation by theoretical astrophysicist Dr Chanda Prescod-Weinstein who gave one of the keynotes.  In their talk they discussed the intersections between STEM and social justice and explained how their own research and teaching align with this theme.


We are very proud to report that Brendan Murtagh was one of the undergraduate poster presentation awardees. “The Student Presentation Awards recognize the next generation of scientists and STEM leaders from historically excluded populations, while giving visibility to their research and home institutions. The awards also encourage students to continue pursuing the STEM fields,” said SACNAS President Dr. Pamela Padilla. “As a multidisciplinary scientific society, the opportunity to present research to a general scientific audience fosters the science communication skills needed to not only build public support for science, but also ensure that science is accessible to everyone.”


This material presented is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Nuclear Structure & Nuclear Astrophysics, Pathways to Improved Representation in Nuclear Science under Award Number DE-SC0021954.  Prof Wamba and Prof Hein have applied to the District for professional development funds to pay for their participation in the SACNAS NDiSTEM conference.


Article by Shannon Hoang, Jiries Kaileh, Madeleine McSwain, Brendan Murtagh, Emilie Hein, and Kolo Wamba

Photo credit: Shannon Hoang, Jiries Kaileh, Madeleine McSwain, Brendan Murtagh

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