Internship Program Aims to Increase Minority Research Opportunities in Nuclear Physics

A new summer internship program at The University of Texas at Arlington will offer students from underrepresented populations the chance to be immersed in research in the exciting field of nuclear physics.

Monday, Nov 22, 2021 • Greg Pederson : Email

A pair of students work on equipment in a Physics Lab

NREMST Home Page

A new summer internship program at The University of Texas at Arlington will offer students from underrepresented populations the chance to be immersed in research in the exciting field of nuclear physics.

The program, Nuclear Research Experiences for Minority Students in Texas (NREMST), will provide students with the chance to work with faculty and students on research in nuclear physics, which is important in fields as diverse as nuclear medicine, archaeology, precision measurement and astrophysics.

The internship program will support three to four undergraduate students per year, starting in summer 2022. Interns will work on the UTA campus in physics laboratories for up to 10 weeks and if they enjoy their work, they will have the opportunity to return for a second summer and/or continue to collaborate remotely during the teaching semester.

During the spring 2022 semester, interns may also opt to complete an online preparatory course to learn basic skills for their research work including Python programming and microcontroller development.


Students can learn more about the program and apply for the internship at

“I’ve always loved working with our diverse team of researchers in the nuclear physics group at UTA. From undergrads to graduate students and postdocs, the scientists who pursue research with us come from a wide range of backgrounds, genders and ethnicities,” said Ben Jones, UTA associate professor of physics and one of the program’s organizers. “This new Department of Energy-supported program is a wonderful opportunity to host students from other Minority Serving Institutions in Texas to experience cutting-edge nuclear physics work as part of our dynamic and ambitious research team."

Students selected for the program will be assigned a junior mentor, a UTA graduate student or postdoctoral researcher; a peer mentor, a UTA undergraduate researcher who has worked in the lab for six months or more and can help with the basics; and a senior mentor, one of UTA’s world-leading faculty members who work on neutrinoless double beta decay experiments.

Doctoral student Karen Navarro and undergraduate student Jackie Baeza-Rubio will be among the student mentors for the program.

“Programs such as NREMST will open the doors to experience real-world hardware and analysis research projects to underrepresented groups,” Navarro said. “I look forward to mentoring and working with the chosen individuals to help solve some of the most fundamental unanswered questions about the Universe. I, an El Paso native, am incredibly thankful for all the opportunities I have been given and continue to have from programs such as this one. There is indeed no barrier when you are eager to learn!”

Those selected for the program will participate in the study of radioactive decays of a nucleus of a specific isotope of xenon with atomic mass 136. This nucleus is one of a handful hypothesized to decay through a unique process called neutrinoless double beta decay. Most radioactive beta decays emit one electron and neutrino – a super light, very weakly interacting particle that escapes from the detector and can pass right through the Earth without interacting with it.

Researchers at UTA are looking for the elusive neutrinoless double beta decay, which would involve the emission of two electrons and no neutrinos in the final state. Observing this decay is extremely experimentally challenging, but success would have major implications.

A definitive observation would prove neutrinos to be their own anti-particles and offer a path toward explaining the abundance of matter in the Universe. It would also offer a window through which to view the ultimate theory of nature, valid at higher energies than the existing standard model of particle physics.

The program includes the following:

  • A stipend of $15 per hour for up to 40 hours per week for summer 2022, and up to 10 hours per week during the regular semester;
  • Housing in a UTA dormitory for the summer;
  • Travel costs to and from UTA for the summer from anywhere in Texas, including one optional trip home for a break in the middle of the internship;
  • A local travel allowance for students who do not have their own car;
  • Support for travel to present results of research work at a conference when students are sufficiently advanced.

Eligibility for the program includes the following:

  • Undergraduate students with a major in physics or a similar technical discipline at a Minority Serving Institution or community college in their junior year or above;
  • Members of underrepresented minority groups in STEM. We will interpret the term minority with some flexibility, though we especially encourage applications from Black and Hispanic students;
  • Ability to be present at UTA to work 40 paid hours per week on research during the summer of 2022;
  • Will be at least 18 years old as of June 1, 2022;
  • No specific technical skills or past record of work are required. Enthusiasm to learn more about physics and the Universe we live in is the main criterion for selection.

The program and neutrino research at UTA are supported by the Division of Nuclear Physics of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and by The University of Texas at Arlington.