Edwin L. Aguirre
Physics Prof. Erno Sajo
recently received a three-year $450,000 grant from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC) to support UMass Lowell’s longstanding academic programs in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences.
“The NRC grant is highly competitive and is intended to support faculty research and career development,” says Sajo.
He says there is currently a shortage in research talent in nuclear science.
“Many universities are trying to lure faculty from other institutions to fill their growing needs in this area,” he says. “UMass Lowell is committed to strengthening its nuclear science education and research programs by hiring new faculty and supporting existing research areas and initiating new ones. This is a very important component that has made us competitive, and maintaining this level of commitment and competitiveness will allow us to eventually attract more external research funding.”
Sajo says the grant will also improve students’ experiences in the program by providing more research topics and assistantships.
A Lifelong Interest
Sajo, who is an alumnus (he received his Ph.D. from the University of Lowell in 1990), is an expert in medical physics and radiological science. He recently returned to UMass Lowell after 20 years of service at Louisiana State University. His research interests include studying the fundamental interactions between radiation and biological matter, with particular emphasis on cancer therapy.
“My fields of interest are radiation biology, radiation transport and aerosol transport or colloid-interface science,” he says. “The latter is part of nano science, and it has found applications, or the promise thereof, in cancer treatment. I am collaborating in this area with Harvard Medical School.”
Sajo first became interested in physics at a very young age.
“The development of nuclear power was still a hot topic at the time, with great future potential,” he recalls. “One day, I saw a brain surgery on television, and I thought there must be a way that we could apply nuclear energy to help brain surgery. This is why I decided to become a medical physicist. Modern medicine is unimaginable without the enabling technology of nuclear sciences.”