Physics students to LEAP-UP through new Old Westbury-Brookhaven National Lab partnership

black and white hand-drawn illustration of scientific symbols and equations


DOE grant award promotes access, preparation
for Physics students from underrepresented communities

Increasing participation among underrepresented students in high-energy physics while promoting research engagement between faculty at SUNY Old Westbury and scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory are the goals of a new grant earned jointly by the University and the national lab.

Three young people in a field with a radio astronomy antenna
LEAP-UP students Eishan Singh (rear) and Gabriella Anzalone (front) work alongside fellow student Amy Lopez Calderon at the campus' four-sided dipole radio antenna, a radio astronomy device located at SUNY Old Westbury and used by the campus' faculty and student researchers.

"The Long Island High Energy and Astrophysics Undergraduate Pathway (LEAP-UP)" earned an award of $1.15 million over three years via DOE’s “Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce for High Energy Physics” program.

The program annually will enable five SUNY Old Westbury students pursuing the campus’ Physics degree to prepare for and take part in some of the most notable current research projects in the world involving leading scientists in BNL’s high-energy physics program.

Along with the student-centric focus of LEAP-UP, the joint effort will create an active bridge between the theory expertise of the Old Westbury faculty in areas like string theory, high-energy theoretical physics, astrophysics, and radio astronomy with the experimental expertise of BNL’s researchers.

“For our students, this is a life-changing opportunity to be involved with world-leading scientists engaged in research of some of the most interesting, and potentially impactful science of our times,” said John Estes, assistant professor of physics at SUNY Old Westbury and principal investigator on the grant. “As a campus committed to serving students from widely diverse backgrounds, we are proud that the academic, research and financial support these students receive will remove a variety of obstacles that might otherwise force them to choose another path in life.”

Dr. Estes with glasses in front of bookcase
Dr. John Estes, LEAP-UP principal investigator

Through the grant, the Old Westbury students during their junior and senior years will take regular trips to BNL to visit and learn about the high energy physics research program and hear from the BNL personnel involved, will prepare through group projects and other extracurricular activities -- including building a muon detector -- for the roles they will play in the research, and, during the summer between their junior and senior year, participate in a 10-week summer research program at BNL.

“We are excited to welcome students from Old Westbury to Brookhaven Lab, where they will use our world-class scientific facilities and expertise of our scientific staff to learn how to detect and study elementary particles and uncover new laws of Nature that govern the world at the smallest and largest observable distances,” said Dmitri Denisov, Brookhaven’s deputy associate laboratory director for high energy physics. “Our goal is to work with Old Westbury to incorporate BNL- and DOE-related work into the college’s curriculum to encourage a sustained stream of students interested in particle physics and potential future employment at Brookhaven or another national lab.”

Having started their preparation through LEAP-UP this January, the founding cohort of students will also participate this summer in the Eighth African School of Fundamental and Applied Physics, planned for July 7-21, 2024, at Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakesh, Morocco.

The initial students are Gabriella Anzalone, New Hyde Park; Asad Imam, Deer Park; Brandon Imhof, Old Bethpage; Eishan Singh, Hicksville; and Adrian Taveras, Copiague.  Working with Dr. Estes on the project at Old Westbury are Dr. Michael Kavic, associate provost and Dr. Matthew Lippert, assistant professor of physics.

The BNL projects in which the students will engage are among some of the most notable in the world:

  • ATLAS/Large Hadron Collider: Working alongside BNL mentor Dr. Kétévi Assamagan, students will participate in building components for the ATLAS Detector at the Large Hadron Collider, which is the world’s highest energy accelerator, located at CERN in Switzerland.
  • Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE): Led by BNL’s Dr. Mary Bishai, co-spokesperson for the international experiment, and Dr. Mateus Fernandes Carneiro da Silva, students will build and test neutrino detectors used deep in a mine in South Dakota to seek out new subatomic phenomena and potentially transform our understanding of neutrinos and their role in the universe.
  • Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night (LuSEE-Night): With Dr. Anže Slosar as their BNL mentor, students will build components for a radio telescope to be located on the far side of the moon, to observe the conditions that relate to the early existence of universe.

The LEAP-UP funding provides the students with full-tuition scholarships, stipends to support their studies during the academic year, a summer stipend to support them during their research engagement at BNL, and also covers travel and registration costs to scientific conferences.

School of Arts and Sciences