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ODU Researcher’s Work Inspires First German-American Partnership at JLab

German and American physicists have never worked side-by-side at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News. Not until recently, that is, when a study of light-meson decay led by Old Dominion University professor Moskov Amaryan intrigued numerous German scientists.

It interested them so much, in fact, that members of one of Europe's largest nuclear labs, Forschungszentrum Julich, wrote Germany's first memorandum-of-understanding with the Jefferson Lab to join the project.

"In particle physics, Germany is one of the most prominent countries in Europe," said Amaryan, who came to Old Dominion in 2004. "They didn't join before, they have chosen now to join. One should say this humbly."

Charles Sukenik, chair of the University's physics department, said the formal relationship with seven senior physicists and their students from three prominent German universities and research labs is exciting.

"A MOU indicates a higher-level form of partnership," Sukenik said. "Moskov has put together an impressive international collaboration that is bringing some of the top German scientists to participate in analysis of work done at Jefferson Lab.

"Germany has a very strong program," he continued, "and certainly there is U.S. faculty doing work there."

Amaryan decided four years ago to gather data from previous Jefferson Lab studies and analyze mesons - subatomic particles composed of a quark and an anti-quark that appear briefly after high-powered impact.

Amaryan spent last fall on sabbatical in Germany, doing research and speaking at university seminars where he shared his affiliation with Old Dominion and his work at Jefferson Lab.

He formed an analysis proposal and submitted it for endorsement from Jefferson Lab and the Department of Energy.

Ultimately, as word spread in what Amaryan described as the "small village" of particle physicists, scientists from 22 institutions in the U.S., Russia, Italy, the United Kingdom, India and Germany signed up to work on his project.

Each Tuesday morning, the group, which also includes Old Dominion's Charles Hyde, meets via conference call to discuss findings. When ready, Amaryan said results will be submitted for publication in the prestigious "Physical Review."

Amaryan compared the thrill of creating a multi-national research team to a soccer star captaining a squad.

"It is not easy; you are dealing with people from different countries and universities with their own ambition," he said.

"You must deserve leadership based on your knowledge and performance, otherwise people will not follow you," he continued. "The subject and the work must be attractive. My colleagues are committed to continuing, and we are making a lot of progress."

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