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April 4, 2022

Student View: No better place for accelerator science

Jonathon Howard is a fourth-year doctoral student in mechanical engineering who conducts research in the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at MSU. A native of Owosso, Michigan, Howard also completed his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at MSU in 2018. Recently he received the Klaus and Jean Timmerhaus Scholarship, which fosters increased interest and participation in fields of cryogenic study and encourages future engineers and scientists in these areas.

I was introduced to the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and presented the opportunity to work at the facility through my engineering academic adviser, Dr. Abraham Engeda. In the graduate school interview process, I was given a short tour by my FRIB supervisor, Dr. Peter Knudsen. During this tour, I was amazed at the advanced technology at the facility and was impressed that all of this was available within Michigan State’s campus. It was at this point that I was convinced that I would pursue an education in accelerator science, and my interactions with faculty and staff at FRIB and my graduate education have further increased my interest in accelerator science.

FRIB is conveniently located in the heart of MSU’s campus and is a world-class facility with many leaders in physics and engineering. The academic knowledge that can be learned from working closely with faculty and staff at FRIB will have a large impact on anyone who is prepared to learn and is interested in accelerator science. For my own research, the cryogenic refrigeration plant at FRIB is a state-of-the-art facility that produces the liquid helium that is required for the linear accelerator to operate and is on the leading edge of cryogenic technology.

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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Cryogenics is a broad field that encompasses many sectors, applications and areas of research, from aerospace and energy to biology and medicine. Cryogenic engineering is a field requiring mechanical, chemical, material and electrical engineering disciplines and involves the design, engineering, and research and development of thermal systems that operate at or below the normal boiling point of natural gas (about 120 kelvin).

My current goal as a student is to complete a dissertation that can have an immediate impact on large-scale helium cryogenic systems, mainly increasing the capabilities and efficiencies of sub-atmospheric systems. Through my research, I hope to gain the skills that will allow for future employment as a process engineer at a cryogenic facility. The advanced cryogenic facilities at MSU and FRIB, and the leaders in cryogenic engineering here, are setting the stage for a highly impactful dissertation.

The integration of the College of Engineering and FRIB through the MSU Cryogenic Initiative has been very beneficial. The addition of mechanical engineering classes that introduce engineering students to the technologies utilized at FRIB had a large impact on my knowledge and enthusiasm in the field of cryogenics. I hope to see new engineering students joining the program in the future and am excited for the training of the next generation of cryogenic engineers.

By: Meredith Mescher

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