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John M. Carpenter; Senior Physicist, retired The third annual Richard K. Osborn Lecture, December 6, 2013, couldn’t have been given by anyone more appropriate – John Carpenter (PhD NERS ’63), a former professor of nuclear engineering (’64 -’75), former student and then colleague of Professor Osborn, and a former senior physicist at Argonne National Laboratory. Carpenter presented “History, Development and Application of Neutron Sources” to current and former students and faculty, some of whom he worked with when he was a Michigan Engineering professor.

“I was immensely pleased to be asked to give this lecture,” said Carpenter. “It was partly because of doctor Osborn that I came to U-M as a graduate student. One of my professors at my Penn State undergraduate program had been one of Osborn’s students at Oak Ridge and recommended that I apply for graduate school at Michigan. Osborn was a remarkable character. He could start writing in the top left corner of the blackboard and be down to the bottom right hand of the blackboard by the end of the class.” Osborn was also an excellent theoretical physicist.

Carpenter’s lecture was far-reaching but included highlights such as the evolution of our understanding of the neutron, and its importance to – and practical uses in – the nuclear engineering field. Carpenter’s research and career focused on pulsed spallation neutron sources. “A natural application for a nuclear engineer like me is slow-neutron scattering as a probe of materials structure and atomic motions,” said Carpenter in his lecture.

“Neutrons are the fundamental entity of nuclear technology,” said Carpenter. “They are important to understand because nuclear technology provides a good source of clean and inexpensive energy. Nuclear energy provides 20 percent of this country’s energy.”

Neutron research has established that there are valuable uses beyond being a source of energy. According to Carpenter, neutrons have proven valuable for the study of materials in such applications as dry cleaning, cosmetics, super-conducting cables, wider-ranging materials-science research, and medical imaging.

“The outstanding career of Jack Carpenter is exemplary of the application of fundamental science to solve societal problems that also characterized Richard Osborn’s research. I am delighted that this lecture series has made it possible to transmit this scientific approach to our students,” said Ron Gilgenbach, department chair and Chihiro Kikuchi Collegiate Professor, Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences.

The Richard K. Osborn Lecture Series was established in 2010 from a generous gift by Professor Sidney Yip endowing the Richard K. Osborn Memorial Lectureship in the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences Department. This lectureship is a fitting tribute to honor Professor Osborn’s unwavering dedication to educating students in fundamental science. The annual lecture series is a dynamic, living forum for inspiring future generations of students in nuclear theory and simulation.

To learn more about Dr. Carpenter and his work, watch his lecture on demand

Article topics: Alumni, Featured Speakers


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