Researcher joins MSU as part of new nuclear physics, statistical sciences collaboration

Published September 7, 2017

A new collaboration between nuclear physics and the statistical sciences at Michigan State University (MSU) is bringing together the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) and the Department of Statistics and Probability (STT).

Witek Nazarewicz, FRIB chief scientist, and Léo Neufcourt, research associate.

As part of that collaboration, Léo Neufcourt, an expert in statistics, probability theory and applied mathematics, has accepted an appointment as a research associate at MSU. It will be a joint position shared between FRIB and STT.

“I am excited to be part of the FRIB project through this partnership,” Neufcourt said. “FRIB experiments could answer several questions that not only are fundamental to science, but would also directly impact people’s lives. I look forward to contributing to this impressive work.”

Neufcourt received his Ph.D. in statistics at Columbia University after graduating from a cross-disciplinary program at Ecole Polytechnique in France. He has been a visiting researcher at Universidad de Valparaíso in Chile, where he worked in the stochastic modeling group, creating mathematical models of systems which appear to behave randomly but follow precise probabilistic laws. Neufcourt has also worked as a quantitative analyst and a consultant in the financial industry, where he focused on building quantitative models for financial markets.

“Léo and our team will develop new statistical techniques for estimating parameters for unstable nuclei and other nuclear physics problems,” said Frederi Viens, professor and STT chairperson. “Together with my colleague, Professor Taps Maiti, and his group, we are discussing the development and use of cutting-edge Bayesian methodology. It will be designed to provide estimates of uncertainty in nuclear physics models, estimates which are as sharp and as honest as possible. We expect that our methodology will extract and quantify information from our colleagues’ deep knowledge of physical systems. We are delighted Léo is joining us to expand our horizons in this research area.”

Neufcourt will engage in diverse research efforts within FRIB, including uncertainty quantification for models in theoretical and experimental nuclear physics, as well as in modeling related to facility development and isotope beam production. Uncertainty quantification is a way to estimate an outcome or a model when no model can be made to match experimental data exactly.  

“This collaboration will serve to enhance the experiments at FRIB and the real-world applications of our research,” said Thomas Glasmacher, FRIB laboratory director.

Neufcourt will have opportunities to explore other collaborations on campus and is already in discussions with teams interested in high-frequency quantitative finance, development economics and ecosystem services, and healthcare outcomes in human medicine. His appointment is supported by FRIB, STT, the College of Natural Science and the Department of Family Medicine.

MSU is establishing FRIB as a new scientific user facility for the Office of Nuclear Physics in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. Under construction on campus and operated by MSU, FRIB will enable scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes in order to better understand the physics of nuclei, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions, and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security, and industry.

The Department of Statistics and Probability is a unit within the College of Natural Science at MSU, and has a long and proud tradition of excellence for world-class research and training for more than 65 years. The department awards bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in statistics, and is home to an internationally renowned faculty with a wide variety of expertise in fundamental and interdisciplinary research. Graduates of the programs go on to careers in academia, industry and government.