UWRF Physics Professors Secure Two National Science Foundation Grants

August 4, 2014—In July, UW-River Falls physics Professor Jim Madsen and physics Assistant Professor Surujhdeo Seunarine received two grants from the National Science Foundation totaling $589,877. Both grants are linked to the IceCube telescope, a particle detector at the South Pole that records the interactions of a nearly massless subatomic particle called the neutrino. 

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory was awarded the 2013 Breakthrough of the Year by the British magazine Physics World. The Antarctic detector was selected for being the first to detect cosmic neutrinos and heralding a new age of neutrino astronomy, but also for overcoming the many challenges of creating and operating such a huge detector at the South Pole. 

UW-River Falls has been a member of the IceCube Collaboration and its predecessor AMANDA since 1998. Four physics staff members and three students have deployed to Antarctica for research. More than sixty undergraduates have worked on this project at UWRF in the last 15 years. 

The first grant, "Collaborative Research: Element Composition of Higher Energy Solar Particles," will fund research projects utilizing data from the South Pole neutron monitor and a surface detector called IceTop. UWRF students will also get an opportunity to do field work at the South Pole. The projects involve collaborators at UW-River Falls, the University of Delaware, and institutions in South Korea and Thailand. 

The second project funded, "IRES: U.S.-European International Research-Experience-Particle Astrophysics for Undergraduates," will provide 18 ten-week research experiences for undergraduates. Students will participate in a one-week science and software "boot camp" prior to participating in an internship at leading institutions in particle astrophysics in Belgium, Germany, or Sweden. 

"We are extremely excited to receive this funding and provide research opportunities for UWRF, two-year college, and undergraduate students from the seventeen IceCube collaboration members in the USA," said Madsen. "We look forward to showing what UWRF has to offer, and the capabilities of our students." 

"Both of these grants further elevate IceCube as a model for combining meaningful undergraduate research with global education, two strategic priorities for UW-River Falls," said UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen. 

For more information on the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory, visit For more information on the two NSF grants, contact Madsen at 715-425-3235 or 

Jim Madsen Suruj Seunarine

Jim Madsen and Surujhdeo Seunarine