Sally Hicks, Ph.D.

Dr. Sally Hicks currently serves as the Chair and Professor of Physics at UD, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Kentucky, and Director of  the Electrical Engineering and Physics Dual-Degree Program with the University of Texas, Arlington. She also directs the  Clare Boothe Luce Program for women in computer science, engineering, mathematics and physics, after UD was awarded a $290k scholarship grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support undergraduate female students in those areas of study. 

Her research is funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration to complete neutron scattering measurements on nuclei of interest for energy production and national security, as well as to help us better understand how neutrons interact with matter. This research has included many undergraduate students who have gone on to become scientists, engineers, high school teachers, medical professionals, and leaders in other occupations. 


B.S., Physics and Mathematics, Eastern Kentucky University (1981)
M.S., Physics, University of Kentucky (1984)
Ph.D., Nuclear Physics, University of Kentucky (1988)

Recent Courses

PHY 2305 General Physics I (Trig-Based)
PHY 2312/2112 General Physics II (Calc-Based) & Lab
PHY 3320/3120 Quantum Physics & Lab
PHY 3341/3141 Optics & Lab
PHY 3V68 Integrated Science Laboratory
PHY 4153 Physics Seminar
PHY 4327 Electromagnetic Theory
PHY 4423 Theoretical Mechanics
PHY 4364 Nuclear Physics

Research Interests

Dr. Hicks' research is currently funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Stewardship Science Academic Programs (SSAP) of the Department of Energy. The NNSA/SSAP supports academic research in the areas of materials under extreme conditions, low energy nuclear science (neutron scattering cross sections in our case), radiochemistry, and high energy density physics. Moreover, an important focus of the program is to provide hands-on training and experience to students who will be the next generation of scientists and physicists.

The measurement of these important neutron scattering cross sections can be completed by only a few facilities worldwide, and the UK Accelerator Laboratory, with its advanced neutron production and detection capabilities, is uniquely suited for these measurements. The high-quality data produced at UK will be utilized by data evaluators, theorists, and engineers in producing safer, cleaner, more-efficient energy sources, more precise and accurate security systems, and will help us better understand the nuclear force.

A consortium of three universities (UD, the University of Kentucky and the United States Naval Academy) has been formed to provide the necessary breadth for this effort and includes scientists with extensive experience in neutron elastic and elastic scattering measurements and with direct access to the facilities for completing the proposed neutron measurements, i.e., the UK Accelerator Laboratory. This three-year project, which will integrate closely with other interested national/international groups of scientists and engineers, will provide partial support for faculty and staff to complete the research and support fully training in neutron physics for six to ten university undergraduate students, a graduate student, and a postdoctoral scholar, thus helping address the nations need to improve the nuclear science and engineering infrastructure so the industry will be prepared for future expansion. Funding will be available during the next three years for one-to-two UD undergraduate students to participate in measurements and data analyses. This neutron scattering program was previously funded under the Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) umbrella of the Department of Energy from 2010-2016 and supported seventeen undergraduate research projects. My students and I also conduct research in the area of nuclear structure, specifically the structure of the Z=52 isotopes.   Low-lying excited levels of the even-even Tellurium nuclei are being investigated using g-ray spectroscopy following inelastic neutron scattering.  This reaction mechanism allows us to determine the lifetimes of levels in the few femtosecond to few picosecond region and to deduce electromagnetic transition rates.  From these investigations we are able to learn about the collective properties of the nucleus.  In particular, we can study multi-phonon excitations, intruder excitations, and states of mixed neutron-proton symmetry. The experiments conducted for these nuclear structure studies were funded by the National Science Foundation.  

Current Research Grant:
National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE): “Investigations leading to a greater accuracy in the knowledge of low energy cross sections of stable and unstable nuclei and corresponding reaction rates for neutron, gamma, and ion-induced reactions,” Award amount: Total: $690,000, UD: $178,000; received March 2016 for three years (Co-PI on Consortium Grant with Steven W. Yates (U. KY, PI) and Jeffrey R. Vanhoy (USNA, Co-PI))

Selected Publications

"Opportunities for Undergraduate in Nuclear Physics", S.F. Hicks, T.D. Nguyen, D.T. Jackson, S.G. Block, S.T. Byrd, M.T. Nickel, J.R. Vanhov, E.E. Peters, A.P.D. Ramírez, M.T. McEllistrem, S. Mukhopadhyay, and S.W. Yates. Physics Procedia, Volume 90, 2017, Pages 323-331.

"Research at the University of Kentucky Accelerator Laboratory", S.F. Hicks and M.A. Kovash. Physics Procedia,  Volume 90, 2017, Pages 440-447.

"Inspection of 56Fe γ -Ray angular distributions as a function of incident neutron energy using optical model approaches," J.R. Vanhoy, A.P. Ramirez, D.K. Alcorn-Dominguez, S.F. Hicks, E.E. Peters, M.T. McEllistrem, S. Mukhopadhyay, and S.W. Yates, EPJ Web of Conferences 146, 11051 (2017). DOI: 10.1051/epjconf/20171461

"Level lifetimes and the structure of 134Xe from inelastic neutron scattering," E. E. Peters, A. Chakraborty, B. P. Crider, S. F. Ashley, E. Elhami, S. F. Hicks, A. Kumar, M. T. McEllistrem, S. Mukhopadhyay, J. N. Orce, F. M. Prados-Estévez, and S. W. Yates, Phys. Rev. C 96, 014313 (2017). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevC.96.014313

"Neutron scattering cross section measurements for 56Fe," A. P. D. Ramirez, J. R. Vanhoy, S. F. Hicks, M. T. McEllistrem, E. E. Peters, S. Mukhopadhyay, T. D. Harrison, T. J. Howard, D. T. Jackson, P. D. Lenzen, T. D. Nguyen, R. L. Pecha, B. G. Rice, B. K. Thompson, and S. W. Yates, Phys. Rev. C 95, 064605 (2017). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevC.95.064605

"Collective quadrupole behavior in 106Pd", F. M. Prados-Estévez, E. E. Peters, A. Chakraborty, M. G. Mynk, D. Bandyopadhyay, N. Boukharouba, S. N. Choudry, B. P. Crider, P. E. Garrett, S. F. Hicks, A. Kumar, S. R. Lesher, C. J. McKay, M. T. McEllistrem, S. Mukhopadhyay, J. N. Orce, M. Scheck, J. R. Vanhoy, J. L. Wood, and S. W. Yates, Phys. Rev. C 95, 034328 (2017). DOI:

"Lifetimes in 124Te: Examining Critical-Point Symmetry in the Te Nuclei", S. F. Hicks, J. R. Vanhoy, P. G. Burkett, B. R. Champine, S. J. Etzkorn, P. E. Garrett, S. W. Yates, and Minfag Yeh, Phys. Rev. C 95, 034322 (2017). DOI:

“E0 transitions in 106Pd: Implications for shape coexistence,” E.E. Peters, F. M. Prados-Estévez, A. Chakraborty, M.G. Mynk, D. Bandyopadhyay, S.N. Choudry, B. Pl Crider, P.E. Garrett, S. F. Hicks, A. Kumar, S. R. Lesher, C. J. McKay, M.T. McEllistrem, J.N. Orce, M. Scheck, J.R. Vanhoy, J.L. Wood, and S.W. Yates, Eur. Phys. J. A (2016).  52: 96.  DOI 10.1140/epja/i2016-16096-y

Neutron Scattering Differential Cross Sections for 23Na from 1.5 to 4.5 MeV, J .R. Vanhoy, S.F. Hicks, A. Chakraborty , B.R. Champine, B. M. Combs, B.P. Crider, L. J. Kersting, A. Kumar, C. J. Lueck, S. H. Liu, P. J. McDonough,  M.T. McEllistrem, E.E. Peters , F.M. Prados-Estevez, L.C. Sidwell, A. J. Sigillito, D.W. Watts, and S.W. Yates, Nuclear Physics A 939 (2015) 12140.

“Studies of 54,56Fe neutron scattering cross sections”, S. F. Hicks, J. R. Vanhoy, A.J. French, S.L. Henderson, T.J. Howard, R. L. Pecha, Z.C. Santonil, B.P. Crider, S. Liu, M.T. McEllistrem, E.E. Peters, F.M. Prados-Estévez, T. J. Ross, S.W. Yates, presented at the Fifteenth International Symposium on Capture Gamma-Ray Spectroscopy and Related Topics, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany August 25-29, 2014. Proceedings from the Fifteenth International Symposium on Capture Gamma-Ray Spectroscopy and Related Topics, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, August 25 to August 29, 2014, EPJ Web of Conferences 93, 02002 (2015). DOI: .  

Student Research Projects from Nuclear Structure and Neutron Scattering Investigations (Research Years) The following projects were supported by the NNSA/DOE, NEUP/DOE, and NSF.

  • Daniel Jackson, "MCNP Neutron "Simulations on the Effectiveness of the UKAL Scattering Pit and Vanadium Gamma-Ray Analysis" (2015). 
  • ThienAn Nguyen, "Studies of Neutron Scattering Monte Carlo Simulations to Determine Background Radiation Sources and Neutron Trajectories" (2015).
  • Thaddeus Howard, "56Fe Inelastic Neutron Scattering Cross Sections Deduced from -Ray Production Cross Sections" (2014).
  • Robert Luke Pecha, "Determination of Decay Characteristics of 54Fe Excited Levels through Inelastic Neutron Scattering" (2014).
  • Samuel Henderson, Neutron Scattering Measurements on 54Fe at En=3.0 and 4.0 MeV, (2013).
  • Leslie Sidwell, "Neutron Scattering Measurements on 23Na at En=3.20 and 3.40 MeV", (2012-2013).
  • Brett Combs, Neutron Scattering Measurements on 23Na at En=3.20 and 3.57 MeV, (2012).
  • Jeff Schniederjan, "Gamma-ray Spectroscopy Measurements on 23Na," no thesis (2011).
  • Laura Downes, "Neutron Scattering Measurements on NatFe at En=3.19 MeV," no thesis (2011).
  • Jessie Girgis, "Neutron Scattering Measurements on NatFe at En=1.75 MeV," no thesis (2011).
  • Anthony Sigillito, "Neutron Scattering Measurements on 23Na and Normalization Tests," no thesis (2011).
  • Luke Kersting, "Neutron Elastic and Inelastic Scattering Studies of NatFe and 23Na at En= 3.57 MeV and 3.86 MeV." (2010)
  • Peter McDonough, "Testing Procedures and Detectors for Neutron Elastic and Inelastic Scattering Measurements", no thesis (2010).
  • Jeff Ellis, "Experimental Studies of 130Te", no thesis (2003).
  • J. C. Boehringer, "Decay Properties and State Lifetimes in 128Te from Inelastic Neutron Scattering" (2002).
  • Matthew Burns, "Nuclear Structure Study of 122Te through Inelastic Neutron Scattering" (2002).
  • Patrick Roddy, "Gamma-Ray Energy Calibrations and Detector Efficiencies for 126Te Studies", no thesis (2001).
  • Christopher Aubin, "Gamma-Gamma Coincidence Studies of the 122Te Nucleus", no thesis (2000).
  • Meghan M. Walbran, "Low-Energy Excited Levels of 122Te through Gamma-ray Spectroscopy Following Inelastic Neutron Scattering (1999).
  • Beth Sklaney, "Electromagnetic Transition Rates and Multi-phonon Excitations Observed in the Cerium-140 Nucleus (1999).
  • Gary Alexander, "Lifetimes of 122Te Excited Levels Using the Doppler-Shift Attenuation Method, (1998).
  • Corey Collard, "Analyses of  Gamma-ray Transitions from 122Te Excited Levels, (1998).
  • Steve Etzkorn, "Decay Properties and Lifetimes of States in 124Te from (n,n'g) Reaction Studies ", (1997).
  • Peter Burkett, "Te-124 Experimental Studies", no thesis (1997)
  • Christopher Davoren, "Natural Te Experimental Studies", no thesis (1995 & 1996).
  • William Faulkner, "Electromagnetic Transition Rates Observed in the Stable Te Isotopes" (1995).
  • Carl Lundstedt, "Aiding in the Determining of the Excited States of 142-Ce Through the Use of Fortran Programming", (1993).
  • Suzanne Maska, "Data Reduction and Analysis", no thesis (1992).
  • Christopher J. Bennett, "A Study of Calibration Techniques and the Relative Yields of Escape Peaks in 152-Eu and 56-Co", (1992).
  • Eric Meier, "Inelastic Neutron Scattering on 140-Ce and 142-Ce", (1991)

Other Student Theses Supervised (Graduation Years)

  • Mary Zischkau, "Next Generation Manometer: Designing a Speed of Sound Apparatus for the NIST Oil Ultrasonic Interferometer Manometer, Research conducted at NIST (2016)
  • Michael Hoff, "Charging and Interaction of Two-Particle System within a Glass Box Immersed in a Low-Vacuum Argon Plasma, " Research conducted through the REU program at Baylor University (2015).
  • Jack Bredemann, "Using RPC Data to Assist CSC Data when Dealing with Pt Assignment," Research conducted through the REU program at the University of Florida (2014).
  • Elizabeth Sizemore, "Methodologies for Analyzing Motion Data in Humans," Research with Dr. Stephen Slaughter University of Dallas (2014).
  • Mary Catalano, "Identifying Inertial Modes in a Hide-Titman Flow" (2011).
  • Zofia Kaminski, "Particle Tracking of Fluorescent Microspheres" (2011).
  • Christen Racciato, "Crystallization of Germanium for Use in Solar Cells" (2011).
  • Anthony Sigillito, "The Design and Fabrication of Bismuth Hall Effect Biosensors" (2011).
  • Natalie Weisse, "Expression and Manipulation of AquaporinZ in vitro Using the Cell Free System" (2011).
  • Peter McDonough, "Iridium Satellite Signal Exploitation" (2010).
  • Monica Lacy, "Improvements in Positron Accumulation Technique at ATRAP" (2010).
  • Annette Borchard, "East Antarctic Ice Sheets: Potential for Sub-Glacial Water Based on Temperature Modeling" (2009).
  • Joseph Gilpin, "Influence of Magnetic Molecules on Electron Spin Scattering in InAs as Seen in Its Low Temperature Magnetoresistance" (2009).
  • David E. Solis, "The Effect of a Nematic Liquid Crystal Environment on the Alignment of the Conductive Polymer MEH-PPV as a Function of Polymer Chain Length" (2008).
  • Gregory Robert Knutsen, "The structure of the Metal Transporter Tp34 and its Affinity for Divalent Metal Ions" (2008).
  • William Spearman, "Testing Edgeless Planar Detectors" (2008).
  • Eric Pepin, "Interaural Coherence and Localization" (2007).
  • Bridget McEwen, "Using Seismology to Map and Characterize the Glacial Bed in the Onset Region of Ice Stream D, West Antarctica" (2007).
  • Kristi Michels, "The 27Al(p,)28Si Reaction(2006).
  • Maria Bellon, Stabilizing the Frequency of an InGaAs/AlGaAs Laser Module (2005)
  • Levente Borvak, Neutron/Gamma-ray Pulse Shape Discrimination Using a PSD Circuit (2004).
  • Stephanie Wissel, Skymaps for GALPROP Simulations of VHE Gamma Rays (2004).
  • Janessa Bechtel, "Losses in SRF Cavities" (2003).
  • Genevieve Wing, "Diffusion in the Presence of Adsorption in Organic Aerogels" (2003).
  • Claire Nerbun, "Two-Photon Fluorescence Microscopy and Deconvolution Analysis" (2002).
  • Brenda Martin, Insertion Complexes with Methyl-b-Cyclodextrin with Alkane Chains Confined in an Isolated Droplet of Water (2001).
  • Shelly Wark, "Sensitive Laser Detection of Environmental Pollutants" (2001).
  • Elizabeth A. Reisinger, "Investigation of the Fundamental and Higher Order Modes of the APS Storage Ring Single Cell Cavity",(1993).
  • Patricia Suzanne Maska, "Development of Elastic Surfaces for Optical Estimation of Cell Traction Forces", (1992).
  • John Bauer, "Preliminary Results from a Search for a Superdeformed State in 188-Hg", (1990).


"Opportunities for Undergraduate Research in Nuclear Physics", S. F. Hicks, S. G. Block, S. T. Byrd, T. D. Nguyen, D. T. Jackson, J. R. Vanhoy, E. E. Peters, A. P. D. Ramirez, M. T. McEllistrem, S. Mukhopadhyay, and S. W. Yates, International Conference on Application of Accelerators in Research and Industry (CAARI – 2016), supported by University of North Texas, Sandia National Laboratories, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, Renaissance Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas, USA from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4, 2016.

“Neutron Scattering Studies at the University of Dallas: MCNP Modeling and Experimentation", S. F. Hicks, A. French, Daniel Jackson, Thienan Nguyen, Luke Pecha, Thaddeus Howard, Ben Rice, J. R. Vanhoy, E. E. Peters, M. T. McEllistrem, A. P. Ramirez, and S.W. Yates, Stewardship Science Academic Programs (SSAP) Symposium, Feb.  17-18, 2016, Bethesda, MD.

Awards & Honors

Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship for STEM/HERS Leadership 2016
Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation Piper Professor of 2016
King Award 2013: Address
Haggar Scholar 2009
Haggar Award 1997
University of Dallas Presidential Award 1990, 1994, 2000