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Ivana Abramovic - Internship at Berkeley

Master Internship at the University of California Berkeley - Berkeley, USA
Report by Ivana Abramovic. Powered by FuseNet

The notion of energy was intriguing for me since an early age. In fact being curious about what energy is and how it is produced is what made me decide to study physics in the first place. Despite having a background in theoretical physics I decided to focus more on practical aspects of energy production. I became particularly interested in nuclear physics and subsequently nuclear fusion. Fortunately for me a new master program, Science and Technology of Nuclear Fusion at The University of Technology in Eindhoven, was looking for students and so I applied and got in! The two years I spent in the program were very exciting and my interest in fusion grew over time.

Graduation Project

When the time finally came to find a graduation project I decided to do this myself rather than ask my supervisor from the Fusion Group. So I wrote a letter to a professor at UC Berkeley and received a positive response followed by an offer to do my graduation project at their group in the US. The only obstacle standing between me and UCB was of course funding. Thanks to FuseNet’s funding opportunities for internships I was able to cover necessary costs and complete a project at UCB on Inelastic Neutron Scattering on Iron. This topic belongs to the domain of nuclear physics. Completing the project was challenging and rewarding in the sense that I had been given the opportunity to learn about issues in fusion reactors which I was completely unaware of. As it turns out inelastic scattering plays an important role in neutronics calculations for shielding and the blanket in tokamaks. This reaction becomes more relevant with increasing neutron flux. It turns out that better understanding of it, especially for iron, is needed for setting the design margins in future reactors such as ITER.


Working at UCB

The group I worked with is the Bay Area Neutron Group with Prof. Dr. Lee A. Bernstein as my local supervisor. I learned many new skills some of which are: using nuclear reaction codes, programming in Python, basics of gamma spectroscopy and nuclear data science, and of course many, many theoretical models used in the description of nuclear reactions. My research was focused on reaction modeling, cross sections calculations and fitting of data we recorded in an experiment of inelastic neutron scattering on an iron foil. This group has a great collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and we were able to set up an experiment at LBNL’s 88-Inch Cyclotron facility. The experiment lasted for 3 full days so there were nightshifts involved which most of us enjoyed because of the mornings walking from the lab to the town center with a view of The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay at dawn.

At the time of my stay I participated in a workshop on nuclear data needs for applications held at LBNL. Conclusion of this workshop was that a dedicated study is needed to address the issue concerning the uncertainty in the inelastic cross sections for iron and several other materials. The fact that my project represents one of the first steps in addressing an issue singled out as very important by the entire nuclear data community, is truly an honor.