April 18, 2019  

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Southern Miss Radiation Research to Benefit First Responders

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Dr. Chris Winstead, center, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is leading the radition research efforts.

Researchers at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Physics and Astronomy are engaged in radiation detection efforts aimed at detecting how air chemistry is altered due to the presence of radiation.

Dr. Chris Winstead, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said the research efforts are in response to growing concerns over radiological safety and terrorism.

“Our idea is to actually use the air itself as a means of detecting the radiation,” Winstead said.

Today, first responders must suit up in gear designed to defend against radiation exposure in order to measure contamination threats. Winstead said he is hopeful that innovations in detection will one day provide more effective alternatives.

“We hope to have this technology in place so that if there were some sort of incident, we could protect the first responders who go in and have to assess the situation and protect the public from contamination,” Winstead said.

While fine-tuning this detection method, which would use lasers to detect atmospheric changes from a distance, is still years away, Winstead said he believes researchers are growing closer every day.

Tyler Reese, graduate researcher, noted: “By the end of this leg of research, we’ll be able to show quantitative measurements over a number of chemical products from the radiation source in our vacuum chamber here.”

Winstead said if he and his research team can find those correct targets, then they can take existing technology such as LIDAR and measure radiation from much farther away than what is currently possible.

For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, call 601.266.4934 or visit: http://www.usm.edu/physics