Wellesley College Physicist James Battat Receives Grant through Inclusive Research Program

Professor James Battat
Image credit: Image credit: Ahana Basu ’25
Author  Wellesley College
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Wellesley College physicist James Battat is one of 44 scientists from across the nation to receive a new research grant through the Department of Energy’s Funding for Accelerated, Inclusive Research (FAIR) program. Wellesley is partnering with colleagues at the University of Texas, Arlington, on the grant, which will support groundbreaking research that Battat and his students are conducting in experimental particle physics.

For the past three years, Battat and students in his lab have been designing detectors to study neutrinos, mysterious particles that are nearly massless and travel almost as fast as light. Although they are among the most abundant particles in the universe, they pass through most matter unnoticed.

Battat says that the new FAIR grant, which provides $750,000 of support over three years, will allow him to build a cryogenic electronics facility at Wellesley. “My students and I will work closely with collaborators at the University of Texas, Arlington to build a prototype neutrino detector at Wellesley. This will create opportunities for our students to engage with on-campus, hands-on research at the frontier of particle physics.” If successful, those detectors would eventually be scaled up to building-sized ones underground in the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, as the far detector of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.”

The grant is one of 44 presented to underrepresented institutions—including minority serving institutions and emerging research institutions—in order to build research capacity, infrastructure and expertise. These underrepresented institutions, including Wellesley, are colleges or universities with less than $50 million in federal research expenditures. Wellesley is the only women’s college – and one of only two liberal arts colleges – to receive one of this year’s FAIR grants.

In announcing the FAIR grant, Energy Secretary Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm noted the importance of educating women and other underrepresented groups in STEM. “To reach our scientific goals,” she said, “we need all voices represented at the table, including those who have been historically excluded from critical scientific conversations. This funding will help academic institutions expand their research portfolios and spur future scientific discovery, creating a top-notch workforce to advance American competitiveness.”

About the Sciences at Wellesley
Since its founding, Wellesley College has recognized the critical importance of scientific education for women and inclusive excellence within the field. Five of the seven most popular majors at Wellesley are currently in STEM, and among its peers Wellesley educates the highest number of women who go on to receive Ph. D. degrees in STEM fields. The percentage of STEM degrees earned by underrepresented minority students at Wellesley has doubled over the past 10 years, and Wellesley STEM faculty, over 50 percent of whom are women, are awarded more federal funding than any other liberal arts college without a graduate program. These funds enable students to participate at the forefront of many different fields of research, from quantum mechanics to biotechnology.

Among physics programs, Wellesley graduates the highest number of women with bachelor's degrees of any liberal arts college. And among all higher ed institutions, Wellesley is the only women’s college in the top 10; only 5 institutions award physics degrees to more women than Wellesley does.