Properly earlier than arriving on campus, Peninah (Nina) Levine knew what she needed from her undergraduate training:
“I got here to MIT to be in an setting that may push me past my snug limits,” says Levine, a senior majoring in nuclear science and engineering (NSE). “I needed to discover the place my passions lay and forge my very own path.”
Right this moment, Levine is effectively alongside that path, engaged in a five-year mixed undergraduate and grasp’s program and serving to develop applied sciences for characterizing nuclear materials — instruments to assist in nuclear weapons verification or to stop illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. Her analysis relies within the Laboratory for Utilized Nuclear Physics, directed by Affiliate Professor Areg Danagoulian.
“I used to be searching for a analysis alternative with tangible functions, and that’s what I discovered on the lab,” she says. “The work we’re doing has clear implications for making the world safer.”
Levine is targeted on a course of referred to as neutron resonance transmission evaluation (NRTA), which is used for figuring out particular sorts of particular nuclear supplies. Parts come in several types, or isotopes, and one strategy to differentiate amongst isotopes is to bombard them with neutrons.
“Passing a neutron beam via a goal materials and detecting what comes out the opposite facet — what the goal does and doesn’t take up — allows us to research and exactly decide isotopic composition,” says Levine.
This extremely dependable methodology for pinning down the character of nuclear supplies is essential in nuclear safety, the place verification of weapons treaties might depend upon establishing if a warhead slated for elimination is actual or pretend. The identical type of expertise is beneficial for figuring out the enrichment standing of nuclear gasoline, or for revealing the presence of hid radioactive materials.
However present NRTA “stays broadly inaccessible, as a result of it usually makes use of high-intensity neutron beams at massive, costly amenities,” explains Levine. So, Danagoulian’s lab is growing alternate options “for making NRTA a lot smaller and cheaper,” she says.
In spring 2020, Levine jumped into her a part of the challenge: devising simulations of three totally different strategies for producing neutron beams which may fulfill the necessities for an optimized model of NRTA. Getting these fashions proper means avoiding expensive errors on the experimental stage.
As a result of pandemic, Levine carried out her analysis from dwelling in Bedford, New Hampshire. “I by no means had the chance to fulfill individuals in my lab in individual, and I missed the group facet,” she says. Nonetheless, she discovered taking over her lab tasks each stimulating and rewarding.
“I’ve needed to make myself accustomed to all components of those methods — studying about what sort of energies are required for the neutron beams, and how much supplies to decide on as targets,” she says. “Breaking down an issue into smaller items is cool and engaging to me.” Levine can be incorporating this analysis into her grasp’s thesis.
A collection of pivotal experiences led Levine to her present focus in nuclear safety. One occurred throughout MIT’s First-year Pre-Orientation (FPOP).
“On the NSE FPOP, I heard Professor (R. Scott) Kemp discuss warhead verification,” she says. “I had been all in favour of nuclear vitality in highschool, however this obtained me serious about safety functions of nuclear.” As a first-year, Levine then took 22.04 (Social Issues of Nuclear Power), with Kemp. “The category confirmed how individuals’s worry of nuclear vitality created all these limits on regulatory coverage,” she says. “However I discover that areas the place science doesn’t all the time agree with coverage are fairly fascinating; I wish to know why these tensions happen.”
Levine declared Course 22 however wasn’t assured of her choice till she took 22.061 (Fusion Power). “The college and college students had been so optimistic, speaking about how fusion may make the world a greater place,” remembers Levine. “This class actually hooked up me to the division, and I used to be sure this was an space and a group I may see myself in.”
However Levine’s internship at Lawrence Livermore Nationwide Laboratory the summer season after her sophomore 12 months proved key. “I used to be analyzing not too long ago declassified movies of previous atmospheric nuclear checks, to learn the way a lot radioactive mud and grime was caught within the rising cloud and the place it ended up,” she says. “We needed to create maps that might assist first responders or residents in case of a nuclear assault or explosion.”
Participating in analysis with real-world impacts catalyzed Levine. “Being within the nationwide lab group was the place I dedicated to nuclear,” she says. “It made me wish to get my grasp’s and proceed with this work.”
At MIT for her senior 12 months, Levine is continuous to refine her simulations, whereas finishing coursework not only for NSE however for her minor in public coverage. “I wish to take my safety and expertise focus and match it into the bigger social enviornment,” she says.
Levine had been wanting ahead to diving again into one different exercise upon her return to campus: co-directing the extracurricular group Amphibious Achievement. This athletic and educational mentorship program for 50 Larger Boston highschool college students is one other casualty of Covid restrictions, to Levine’s frustration.
“Amphibious Achievement was the right mixture of tutoring, mentoring, and athletics, which I discovered so necessary in my very own improvement as a scholar, and it’s fairly powerful now, not with the ability to assist out these excessive schoolers,” says Levine, a former MIT varsity swim staff member.
When she finds a second in her schedule today, Levine engages in her favourite pastime, artistic writing. “Ever since I used to be very younger, I’ve beloved writing, particularly science fiction,” she says. “It’s a approach of exploring different worlds.” Up to now 12 months, she’s managed to crank out the primary draft of a dystopian novel that explores the social implications of genetically engineering a brand new species.
However as a lot as she enjoys spinning out fantasies, she has set herself sensible and impressive targets. When she leaves MIT in 2022, she plans to fee with the U.S. Navy as an officer on a nuclear submarine. “I’m not from a navy household, however at Lawrence Livermore, I met individuals with firsthand information of nuclear safety functions, and realized which may supply cool alternatives I wouldn’t discover elsewhere,” she says. And after her five-year naval fee ends, Levine says she’d “prefer to be working in a safety or international relations place, making the world safer.”