Dr. Zachary Meisel

Dr. Zachary Meisel

Photographer: Daniel Owen

Dr. Hee-Jong Seo

Dr. Hee-Jong Seo

Photographer: Robert Hardin

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Two Physics and Astronomy Faculty Receive Prestigious DOE Early Career Awards


Two Ohio University Physics and Astronomy faculty members have received prestigious U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Research Program Awards, the DOE announced on June 21.

DOE Early Career Awards support the development of individual research programs and stimulate research careers in the disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science. University grants provide $150,000 a year for five years and in support of summer salary and research expenses.

Dr. Zachary Meisel and Dr. Hee-Jong Seo, both assistant professors at OHIO, are among 84 scientists from 47 U.S. universities and 13 national laboratories to receive significant funding for research. The awards are for untenured assistant and associate professors within 10 years after earning a Ph.D.

"Having two assistant professors receive these awards speaks to the quality of research taking place here at Ohio University," said Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis. "Our faculty are collaborating with others around the world in pursuit of new knowledge and answers to some of the fundamental questions about our universe."

The effort, now in its ninth year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

“Supporting talented researchers early in their career is key to building and maintaining a skilled and effective scientific workforce for the nation. By investing in the next generation of scientific researchers, we are supporting lifelong discovery science to fuel the nation’s innovation system,” said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “We are proud of the accomplishments these young scientists have already made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come.”

Meisel's research in the field of nuclear physics involves "Constraining Neutron Star Structure with Indirect Nuclear Reaction Studies."

Seo's research is in high-energy physics, particularly "Optimal and robust reconstruction of BAO, redshift-space distortions and the Alcock-Paczynski effect."

“I view this not only as national recognition of these phenomenal young faculty but also of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in that we were able to attract and hire such outstanding faculty. They are joining a cadre of internationally known faculty working with national labs and international projects,” said Dr. David Ingram, Professor and Chair of Physics and Astronomy at Ohio University.

"Early Career Awards not only help researchers establish their labs by providing summer and graduate student funding, they also increase undergraduate student research opportunities," said Dr. Joseph Shields, Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The partnership of world-class faculty working with students to address forefront science questions is central to Ohio University’s mission.”

Understanding Dark Energy, General Relativity

"I am very excited about this news. Astrophysicists are working hard to explain the mysterious dark energy which has been accelerating the expansion of the universe against gravity,” Seo said. “One of the key methods to investigate dark energy is to observe the distribution of galaxies across the universe over a long range of cosmic look-back time and measure its effect on this distribution. With this funding, my group plans to develop a method to pull out more pristine cosmological information from galaxy distribution data. Our research will help improve the understanding of dark energy as well as improve a test of General Relativity and a constraint on the total mass of neutrinos."

Her grant will be used to hire a postdoc and graduate students, and they will work within international, collaborative galaxy survey projects such as the Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS) and the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI).

How Matter Behaves at Highest Densities in Nature

"My research funded by the DOE Early Career Award will improve our understanding of how matter behaves at the highest densities seen in nature,” Meisel said. “This will be accomplished by constraining processes occurring in the outer layers of neutron stars, ultradense remnants of stellar explosions, by removing some of the most important nuclear physics uncertainties for models of these processes.”

The funds from this award will enable Meisel to fund graduate and undergraduate research assistantships, as well as to hire a postdoctoral research associate.

"This research will take advantage of the world unique capabilities of Ohio University’s Edwards Accelerator Laboratory on campus and strengthen existing collaborations with research groups at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, a world class radioactive ion beam facility on the campus of Michigan State University,” Meisel said. "The postdoctoral research associate will help accelerate the pace of research in my group and will enhance the research mentoring that undergraduate and graduate students receive at the Accelerator Lab."