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GW Physics Professor Wins National Science Foundation Grant
August 20, 2012
The $550,000 grant will fund Andrei Alexandru’s research and training in nuclear physics
Andrei Alexandru, an assistant professor of physics at the George Washington University, received a five-year CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation, which is designed to support early career development for junior faculty.
The $550,000 grant, which is about $150,000 more than typical CAREER grants,
will not only help fund his research in nuclear physics but also support the development of a seminar series for K-12 science teachers and a new undergraduate course in computational physics. Dr. Alexandru is the fifth GW professor this year to win a CAREER grant.
Dr. Alexandru studies the internal structure of hadrons (subatomic particles) as they emerge from quarks (the basic building blocks of all visible matter). In more layman’s terms, Dr. Alexandru’s research is part of an effort to understand the properties of visible matter in the universe.
“My research explores the properties of nuclear physics and will help answer questions relating to the composition of the early universe, exotic phases of matter inside neutron stars, charge distributions inside hadrons and the origin of nuclear forces,” said Dr. Alexandru, who joined GW in 2007.
Because Dr. Alexandru’s research relies on supercomputers, he collaborates with GW’s Institute for Massively Parallel Applications and Computing Technologies (IMPACT), which aims to establish an interdisciplinary academic program in high-performance computing (HPC). Dr. Alexandru also collaborates with GW’s Institute for Nuclear Studies.
“Andrei Alexandru is a talented nuclear theorist with an exciting research program to understand the underlying physics of nuclei and nucleons,” said Allena Opper, chair of GW’s Physics Department in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “This award will support his creative idea to develop a course for undergraduate students in computational physics, as well as his research in nuclear physics.”
In addition to the new undergraduate course in computational physics, Dr. Alexandru will be developing a seminar series titled “Modern Physics for Science Teachers,” which will help teachers connect the K-12 science curriculum to modern physics research.
“The seminar series will constitute a valuable educational opportunity for science teachers,” said Dr. Alexandru. “The U.S. is investing heavily in redesigning education in math and science to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack. Modern physics plays a central role in the conceptual framework needed to understand and advance science and technology.”
The seminar series will be offered as part of the professional development provided to science teachers in the District through GW’s College of Professional Studies (CPS). CPS received a $1.1 million grant last year from the U.S. Department of Education to create courses that advance the science and technology competencies associated with the District of Columbia Public Schools curriculum.
Dr. Alexandru’s seminar series will emphasize nuclear and particle physics and help K-12 science teachers connect these concepts to their curriculum and develop classroom activities to enhance students’ learning.
“The CAREER awards are the most prestigious of the National Science Foundation’s mechanisms for supporting outstanding junior faculty that exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through their excellent research and educational objectives and who demonstrate the integration of research and education within the context of the mission of the college and the university,” said Geralyn Schulz, the Columbian College associate dean for research. “Dr. Alexandru truly is a model teacher-scholar.”