Scott Stewart ('11) | Physics
from San Antonio, Texas
Scott Stewart came to ACU knowing it had one of the top physics programs in the nation. But he never expected as a sophomore to be doing research that could change the world.
"Something I'm doing is really making a difference," the honors student said. "The research I'm doing will eventually help us get rid of our oil dependence. We are helping solve the global warming problem."
ACU has one of the only undergraduate programs that actually involves undergraduates in research. We’re not just file organizers and pick-up-the-paper-clips people. We’re doing research at the level of graduate students.
That research is part of a project called the Neutron Induced Fission Fragment Tracking Experiment, or NIFFTE. It is aimed at making next-generation nuclear reactors better, safer and more environmentally friendly, Scott explained.
The NIFFTE project is one of several collaborations ACU's physics department has with national research institutions.
Scott and three other ACU students worked this summer alongside physicists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The laboratory is one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world that conducts multidisciplinary research for fields such as national security, outer space, renewable energy, medicine, nanotechnology and supercomputing.
"These new nuclear reactors are basically going to take the waste from old nuclear reactors and use that as their fuel to generate energy," Scott explained. "So it takes what was a previously limited resource and expands it and gives us more opportunity to use that fuel, and it significantly reduces the waste."
These new reactors also will be safer, Scott said. "Most people are scared of the reactors going critical, and that's why they don't want them around," Scott noted. "These new reactors – if something catastrophic were to happen, they default to nothing happening, because you have to pump energy into them to get these reactions to happen."
Scott and other ACU researchers will give presentations at several national conferences this spring on the NIFFTE project.
This opportunity is one Scott doesn't take lightly. "ACU has one of the only undergraduate programs that actually involves undergraduates in research," Scott said. "We're not just file organizers and pick-up-the-paper-clips people. We're doing research at a level that graduate students normally do it at."
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