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Alumni Update- Katrina Koehler (Class of 2007)
We recently received the following update from Katrina and wanted to share it with you. Below is an excerpt from an e-mail she shared with us, that we are sharing with her permission, detailing the amazing work she is involved in.
I graduated with my bachelor of Science in Math and Physics from Houghton College (which I cannot recommend highly enough). I took a gap year to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and then went to grad school at Western Michigan University(WMU). I was studying nuclear astrophysics under Michael Famiano. A year later, he left WMU to work in the health sector…I finished up my masters degree and headed back to LANL to work in nuclear nonproliferation research (nutshell: keep bad guys from getting nuclear weapons by making material hard to steal).
My research for the first year was almost entirely neutron multiplicity algorithm development and implementation in code. I also did a lot of modeling and simulation work. The main idea behind neutron multiplicity analysis is that neutrons from fissile material come in multiplets. If you play some statistical games you can figure out from your time-stamped neutron detections, which correlations are “real” and which are “accidental.” From that, you can figure out how much fissile mass you have, which is important in the safeguards world. The fun part is that detectors aren’t ideal. That means they can double pulse (how do you identify and correct for that?) and the dead time on correlated events is not easily corrected (if events are correlated, they’re also MORE likely to be killed by dead time). It was fun!
The next year, I started getting on a lot more projects. That was a mistake. I learned the value of “no”! But I did learn a lot through the projects. For these projects, I was working with a scientist whose genius is applying established detectors and methods to safeguards questions.
In January of this year, I started up again with my grad program because Mike returned to WMU… I took my comprehensive exams in June and passed (phew!). Now, I’m gearing up for my proposal in January 2017.
My thesis is a feasibility study on measuring the neutrino mass using microcalorimeters to measure the electron capture spectrum in Ho-163. Microcalorimeters are a family of low temperature detectors that measure the temperature increase caused by the thermalization of an incident particle’s kinetic energy. The end point of the spectrum (near the Q value) is the part of the spectrum from which we can determine the neutrino mass.
That’s a whole bunch of technical detail. I hope I don’t bore you too much! I like to talk about my work to a general audience, but it’s hard without being able to draw pictures!
Other than school/work, I’m really enjoying Los Alamos. I have a fantastic church here. It’s become my family away from home. I volunteer a lot at church and do the occasional community theater play. I’ve taken up hiking and snow-shoeing to keep from atrophying, and I’ve discovered a passion for cooking, although my chapatis are still pathetic.
Alumni Update- Hannah Rasmussen (Class of 2010)
Hannah recently published a book entitled, Good News about Gender: A Bible Study for Young Adults. This book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Alumni Update- Mark J. Boone (Class of 2001)
Mark is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Forman Christian College and recently edited a book entitled, Science Fiction and The Abolition of Man: Finding C. S. Lewis in Sci-Fi Film and Television. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.