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July 18, 2023

New joint French-U.S. laboratory to advance fundamental nuclear physics and astrophysics research at MSU

The International Research Laboratory on Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics is being established at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

Michigan State University and the French research organization, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, or CNRS, today signed an agreement to establish the International Research Laboratory on Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics during a ceremony at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at MSU.  

CNRS has nearly 80 international research laboratories worldwide and IRL NPA at FRIB is the first dedicated to nuclear physics and astrophysics. 

Leveraging FRIB’s world-unique research capabilities, the IRL NPA will be located at FRIB and dedicated to answering fundamental nuclear physics and astrophysics research questions.  

With the establishment of the IRL NPA, MSU joins other universities, including the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Tokyo, hosting an IRL dedicated to advancing our understanding of the infinitely small and infinitely large structures of the universe. 

The IRL NPA aligns with CNRS and MSU missions and strengths.    

CNRS is an interdisciplinary public research organization under the administrative supervision of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research. It creates long-lasting collaborative research structures abroad, bringing together researchers, undergraduate students, post-doctoral researchers, engineers and technicians from both CNRS and international partner institutions.  

MSU has been a place of scientific discovery and a worldwide leader in nuclear science and astrophysics for more than half a century. FRIB and its predecessors have enabled discoveries in nuclear science and astrophysics with accelerated beams of atoms for more than 40 years at MSU. Additionally, MSU has been a top-ranked nuclear physics graduate program for 14 years, according to U.S. News and World Report, and awards 10% of nuclear physics doctorate degrees each year. 

Reynald Pain, director of the CNRS’s French National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics, or IN2P3, and MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., signed a five-year agreement to officially establish the IRL NPA starting Sept. 1, 2023. As part of the agreement, two scientists from France will be permanently located at FRIB.  

“This agreement will bring together researchers in France and the U.S. for the benefit of future scientific breakthroughs in nuclear physics and astrophysics,” said Antoine Petit, the CEO of the CNRS. “This is the CNRS’s seventh international laboratory in the United States; it will join the growing family of collaborative international laboratories that provide a flexible framework to help researchers push the boundaries of scientific exploration.” 

The new research lab will bring together world-class researchers from France and the United States to stimulate discoveries in fundamental nuclear physics and astrophysics. IRL NPA’s focus is on the researchers’ complementary expertise and the sharing of information and data from current and future experiences in the scientific fields concerned. 

IRL NPA will focus on questions at the forefront of fundamental nuclear science research along the following four topics:

  • Nuclear structure and reactions.
  • Nuclear astrophysics.
  • Nuclear theory.
  • Development of instrumentation for nuclear science research.

“We are thrilled to work with our French colleagues to establish the first international research laboratory dedicated to nuclear physics and astrophysics here at FRIB in the heart of MSU’s campus,” said Woodruff. “This new agreement builds on MSU’s history of partnering with the best minds to solve challenging problems for the betterment of Michigan, the nation and people around the globe.” 

MSU operates FRIB as a user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, supporting the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics. FRIB enables scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes to better understand the physics of nuclei, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security and industry.  

“We are delighted to celebrate this new collaboration as an essential way to advance the frontiers of rare-isotope science and fulfill FRIB’s role as a global tool for nuclear structure and nuclear astrophysics research,” said DOE Associate Director for Nuclear Physics of the Office of Science Timothy J. Hallman. “The Department of Energy Office of Science is eager to work with CNRS and MSU in this new framework to facilitate the sharing of expertise and ideas among scientists, leveraging our respective resources for the mutual benefit of all.” 

 “We are honored this new laboratory is being established at FRIB to leverage FRIB’s unprecedented discovery potential to advance nuclear physics and astrophysics research,” said FRIB Laboratory Director Thomas Glasmacher. “The IRL NPA at FRIB will foster new collaborations and intellectual overlap with world-leading scientists to spur new discoveries that will benefit humankind.” 


The French National Center for Scientific Research is one of the most recognized and renowned public research institutions in the world. For more than 80 years, it has continued to attract talent at the highest level and to nurture multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research projects at the national, European and international levels. Geared toward the public interest, it contributes to the scientific, economic, social and cultural progress of France.  

The CNRS is, above all, 33,000 women and men, more than 1,000 laboratories in partnership with universities and other higher education institutions bringing together more than 120,000 employees and 200 professions that advance knowledge by exploring the living world, matter, the universe and the functioning of human societies.  

The CNRS ensures that this mission is carried out in compliance with ethical rules and with a commitment to professional equality. The close relationship it establishes between its research missions and the transfer of acquired knowledge to the public makes it today a key player in innovation in France and around the world. Partnerships with companies are at the heart of its technology transfer policy, and the start-ups that have emerged from CNRS laboratories bear witness to the economic potential of its research. The CNRS also provides access to research findings and data, and this sharing of knowledge targets many audiences: scientific communities, the media, decision makers, economic players and the general public. For more information, visit

MSU has been advancing the common good with uncommon will for more than 165 years. One of the world's leading research universities, MSU pushes the boundaries of discovery to make a better, safer, healthier world for all while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 400 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges. 

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of today’s most pressing challenges. For more information, visit 

Michigan State University operates the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams as a user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC), supporting the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics.