Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of New Mexico

Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

Rapid Innovation in Nuclear Physics

Presented by Robert Duncan, Texas Tech University Prof. Duncan joined Sandia National Labs, and then the Physics and Astronomy Department at UNM, after earning his physics degrees at MIT and UC Santa Barbara. He became a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia in 1995, and then the first Associate Dean for Research within the College of Arts and Sciences at UNM in 1999. He served as the founding Director of the New Mexico Consortium at LANL in 2006, before going on to serve as the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Missouri (MU), and then as the Senior Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University. He currently serves as the President's Distinguished Chair in Physics at Texas Tech. His experimental research interests are in dynamic critical phenomena, quantum fluids, and in precision measurement and new quantum sensing instrumentation design. Prof. Duncan has published seventy papers in refereed journals, and he has taught throughout the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in physics. He has served as a NASA PI within the Fundamental Physics Program. Prof. Duncan is a Fellow and a life member of the American Physical Society, and a Fellow and a Board Member of the National Academy of Inventors. He has served on the Scientific Advisory Board of the United States Air Force. Prof. Duncan was named the Gordon and Betty Moore Distinguished Scholar within the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy at Caltech in 2004. He chaired the Instrumentation and Measurement Topical Group for the American Physical Society in 2002, and the International Symposium on Quantum Fluids and Solids in 2003. He has co-invented 12 US patents and 31 international patents, and he has assisted in the formation of companies. Prof. Duncan chaired the Panel on Fundamental Physical Science in Space for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Decadal Survey in 2010. He has also served on the NAS Panel to evaluate the effectiveness of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). He is a frequent plenary speaker at the World Federation of Scientists in Erice, Sicily, and he has served on executive 'blue ribbon' review committees at the Naval Research Laboratory, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Duncan and Major General (ret) Annette 'Annie' Sobel met early in their professional careers, when they both served on the technical staff at Sandia National Labs. They married in 1993, and they now reside in Lubbock, TX and in Sandia Park, NM.

Climate concerns are driving genuine innovation in nuclear physics at an outstanding rate today. Over five billion dollars of private equity investment in alternative nuclear pathways for energy production has occurred in the last two years alone. I will discuss new approaches to hybrid fission / fusion systems that may result in clean new pathways to energy production. Genuine innovation in nuclear physics transcends conventional approaches, developing new understandings of transport, confinement, and collisional enhancements. These new approaches are interdisciplinary, and they are advancing very rapidly. In addition to our own work in this field, our group has developed highly sensitive instrumentation that permits us to study these new mechanisms and how they scale, using only very small amounts of nuclear materials. This is essential, since this rapid advancement in nuclear innovation requires research at universities and small businesses that may be conducted safely with modest facility investments, and hence is permitted under our limited NRC licenses.

3:30 pm, Friday, October 7, 2022


Disability NoticeIndividuals with disabilities who need an auxiliary aid or service to attend or participate in P&A events should contact the Physics Department (phone: 505-277-2616, email: well in advance to ensure your needs are accomodated. Event handouts can be provided in alternative accessible formats upon request. Please contact the Physics front office if you need written information in an alternative format.

A schedule of talks within the Department of Physics and Astronomy is available on the P&A web site at