Liam Brodie and collaborators work on astrophysics problems in the classroom

Physics student Brodie selected for prestigious DOE program

Physics PhD student Liam Brodie selected to participate in a prestigious fellowship program with the Department of Energy

Liam Brodie, a  graduate student working with Professor of Physics Mark Alford, has been selected to participate in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program. Brodie is a PhD student working on research centering on static and dynamic properties of nuclear matter in the ultra-dense interior of neutron stars. A neutron star is a stellar object which stuffs mass roughly equivalent to that of our sun into a package about as big around as New York City. Brodie studies the interactions between neutrons and protons under these extremely high-pressure circumstances.

Neutron star over New York City
Artist's rendition of a neutron star above New York City

"The pressure this causes leads to some very odd characteristics emerging in the particles’ interactions with one another," said Brodie. "We know that if it was just the nucleon degeneracy pressure between these particles keeping the whole thing from turning into a black hole, then the heaviest a neutron star could be is about 0.7 times the mass of our sun. But we see neutron stars up to about two times the mass of the sun, which means that the interaction between nucleons is repulsive at short range.”

Brodie will be working at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York from July through December, and conducting his research under the mentorship of Dr. Rob Pisarski. Pisarski is one of the leading researchers in the field of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) and focuses on the same sort of high density and moderate temperature environments that Brodie's research has covered at Washington University.

The Department of Energy (DOE) selected 86 graduate students representing a total of 31 states and Puerto Rico for participation in this prestigious program, which aims to prepare graduate students to enter jobs of critical importance to the DOE mission. Since 2014, the program has provided more than 1150 U.S. graduate awardees from 165 universities with supplemental funds to conduct part of their thesis research at a host DOE laboratory in collaboration with DOE scientists.