LVC physics professor lands NSF grant

2 min read378 views and 66 shares Posted September 9, 2020

Lebanon Valley College’s Dr. Daniel Pitonyak was recently awarded $164,862 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his work in physics undergraduate research.


The substantial grant funds are expected to go towards assisting and developing student-faculty research in theoretical nuclear physics with Pitonyak. This three-year grant further is intended to fund student researchers over the summer, as well as support their travels to national conferences to present their results. 

“Through this work, students will gain valuable expertise that will better prepare them for future careers in the STEM fields, whether as researchers or in business and industry and to be members of an inclusive, diverse workforce,” said Pitonyak. “Student-faculty research is a critical component of the education science majors receive at LVC.  These high-impact immersive experiences challenge students and help them to develop skills beyond those learned in the classroom.”

“This grant funds research projects within high-energy nuclear physics. The main goal of this work is to understand the internal structure of protons and neutrons and map out 3-dimensional images of them. Almost all of the visible matter in the universe is built from protons and neutrons, which are found in the nucleus of atoms. However, protons and neutrons are not a fundamental form of matter since they are composed of other particles, namely, quarks and gluons.”  


The research consists of assessing high-energy particle collisions and examining how LVC’s student-faculty models fit experimental data to be able to extract information about quarks and gluons. Some of the data they use is from experiments that are in the United States, and are conducted at high-energy particle accelerators. 

“In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy recently approved the construction of a new collider, called the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), at Brookhaven National Lab that will be built in the next decade. The benefits of this collider extend beyond fundamental science, and include technological advances that can be applied to data software and medicine.”

“Moreover, the success of the EIC rests on young scientists becoming involved in high-energy nuclear physics research, and this grant will provide that opportunity for students at LVC.”

Pitonyak is an assistant professor of physics and graduated from LVC as a double major in physics and mathematics in 2008. Dr. Pitonyak teaches courses including General College Physics, Atomic and Nuclear Physics, Electronics, Analytical Mechanics and Electronics.

Dr. Daniel Pitonyak (Lebanon Valley College)

Pitonyak has a wide variety of academic areas of expertise like atomic and nuclear physics, elementary particle physics, analytical mechanics, electricity and magnetism and quantum mechanics. Additionally, he has surpassed 20 research publications in peer-reviewed journals such as Physical Review Letters, the Journal of High-Energy Physics, Physical Review D and Physics Letters B. Pitonyak grew up in Langhorne, Pa, located in Bucks County, and currently lives in Lebanon.

Pitonyak’s project, Hadronic Structure from Spin Observables in pQCD, will be supported by the grant until approximately July 31, 2023.


Dr. David Lyons, professor of mathematical sciences, will also be receiving an NSF award this month. Lyons’ grant is for $210,429 and this will be his fifth NSF award.

For more information on Pitonyak’s NSF grant, click here.

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