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April 4, 2022

Student View: Harvesting rare isotopes

Samridhi Satija is a third-year doctoral candidate in nuclear chemistry at Michigan State University and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. In her work with FRIB, she harvests rare isotopes that can be used for a range of applications that benefit society. A graduate student from New Delhi, India, Satija was selected for a 2021-22 Leadership Development Fellowship by the MSU Graduate School and an Online Learning Academy Fellowship from MSU to develop digital teaching and learning skills.

I got interested in nuclear chemistry — radiochemistry and isotope harvesting, in particular — only after I joined MSU. Once my adviser, Dr. Greg Severin, introduced me to the project I would be working on, there was no going back for me. I had no prior background in this, but even then, I could sense how big of an impact isotope harvesting would make to nuclear science in general, and the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams in particular. I just didn’t want to miss out on being a part of it, and this feeling has only strengthened with time. After all, who wouldn’t want to work at the world’s leading rare isotope facility?!

The opportunities I got by working at a leading rare isotope research facility are immense, and I get to learn from the leaders in nuclear chemistry, nuclear physics and engineering on a daily basis. FRIB will produce rare isotopes that have applications in fields as varied as medicine, materials science, astrophysics and environmental studies to name a few.

The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at MSU is home to the world’s most powerful heavy-ion accelerator. See what makes MSU a nuclear science powerhouse.

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To explain a bit more about isotope harvesting, it is a process or technique that can be carried out without disturbing FRIB’s routine operation for its nuclear physics mission, and additional, unused isotopes can be “harvested” employing specialized tools and infrastructure in parallel. These harvested isotopes then find application in fields serving society. Some of these isotopes are currently in short supply or have no source other than FRIB. This makes FRIB and MSU special.


My biggest goal for the present is to gain experience in the field of radiochemistry, develop my analytical skills to design experiments and troubleshoot processes that will over time help me in becoming an independent researcher in the future. Achieving this goal is only possible at a large university like MSU because it provides us with exposure to many different areas of research and promotes interconnectedness between departments and colleges. As for the future, since FRIB and MSU encourage a highly collaborative atmosphere in research, the doctoral program here has the potential to connect me to opportunities in the national laboratories during and beyond my doctoral program.


I work with incredibly talented graduate students and postdocs in my research group, and I love it when we’re able to analyze complex problems and challenges and come up with unique solutions together. Everyone is receptive to new ideas, and we work as a team to see them materialize. Everyone in my group is super supportive, and I couldn’t have wished for a better research group.


By: Meredith Mescher

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