Matthew Weiss, an NPRE graduate student, has been awarded a prize in the Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Fuel and Supply Chain. His award-winning research paper, “Effect of Natural Gamma Background Radiation on Portal Monitor Radioisotope Unmixing,” was published in the journal Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research in June 2021.
“I am extremely grateful to receive this award and recognition for the work done on this paper, especially with it being my first publication in the field,” Weiss said. “I am also excited to continue and extend the work on the applications outlined in this publication. The work allowed us to validate the reliability of our radiation unmixing algorithms in the presence of a realistic, time-varying radiation background correlated with ambient temperature and humidity.
“Additionally, this work has led to numerous other experiences for me, including being able to travel to the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada National Security Site to take measurements of special nuclear materials for further applications of our algorithm.”
NPRE assistant professor Angela Di Fulvio, who led the research project, said Weiss’s paper is based on experiments performed in the summer of 2020. “He designed and set up a system to monitor gamma-ray radiation, as well as environmental temperature and humidity, on Talbot’s roof, in real-time. He then used the data to validate our algorithms to identify radiation sources when few counts from the source of interest are available, in the presence of an intense nuisance background. This problem is challenging, like searching for a needle in a haystack. The results from this work could be important for various applications, including radiation source search or detection of illicit sources at radiation portal monitors.
“I am particularly proud of Matthew’s accomplishment because he was able to complete the experiments successfully despite the logistic difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and thanks to the Campus and Department protocols that allowed us to perform research safely in the lab during the past year. I would also like to acknowledge the support received from the NNSA Consortium for Verification Technology, which made Matthew’s undergraduate summer internship possible.”
The Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards program is designed to: 1) award graduate and undergraduate students for innovative nuclear-technology-relevant research publications, 2) demonstrate the Department of Energy’s commitment to higher education in nuclear-technology-relevant disciplines, and 3) support communications among university students and Department of Energy representatives.
The program awarded 22 prizes in 2021 for student publications relevant to innovative nuclear technology.