At the University of New Mexico (UNM) I worked as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Adam Hecht in the nuclear engineering department. With the help of two undergraduate students, I redesigned an existing ion chamber (IC) in order to optimize the energy measurement resolution and to allow for a secondary measurement to be taken. By redesigning the electrical signal outputs, I was able to pull off two timing signals and measure a time-of-flight (TOF) of alpha particles and fission fragments.

Our project was done in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), this gave me experience working at the LUJAN center with engineers and researchers. This detector project has also allowed me to exercise my skills in Solidworks CAD design and draft drawing in order to design a thin Mylar window frame to hold chamber pressure differentials. I have been able to communicate my various mechanical designs to machinists in another department. My Master’s project has given me further experience with in-lab equipment, design, analysis, testing, technical writing, public speaking, and electronics debugging.


Thesis Available Here



  • K. Meierbachtol, F. Tovesson, D. Shields, C. Arnold, R. Blakeley, T. Bredeweg, M. Devlin, A.A. Hecht, L.E. Heffern, J. Jorgenson, A. Laptev, D. Mader, J.M. O׳Donnell, A. Sierk, M. White, “The SPIDER fission fragment spectrometer for fission product yield measurements,” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment, Volume 788, 11 July 2015. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168900215002314)

We developed the SPectrometer for Ion DEtermination in fission Research (SPIDER) for measuring mass yield distributions of fission products from spontaneous and neutron-induced fission. The 2E–2v method of measuring the kinetic energy (E) and velocity (v) of both outgoing fission products has been utilized, with the goal of measuring the mass of the fission products with an average resolution of 1 atomic mass unit (amu). Moreover, the SPIDER instrument, consisting of detector components for time-of-flight, trajectory, and energy measurements, has been assembled and tested using 229-Th and 252-Cf radioactive decay sources. For commissioning, the fully assembled system measured fission products from spontaneous fission of 252-Cf. Individual measurement resolutions were met for time-of-flight (250 ps FWHM), spacial resolution (2 mm FHWM), and energy (92 keV FWHM for 8.376 MeV). Finally, these mass yield results measured from 252Cf spontaneous fission products are reported from an E–v measurement.