About Us

The McDonald Research Lab focuses on three primary topic areas: environmental radiochemistry, spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, and nuclear forensics. While these topics may seem quite diverse, they are all interrelated and devoted to our core research philosophy of improving our fundamental knowledge of basic radionuclide material properties to aid in the rapid detection of hostile nuclear materials, remediate and dispose of radioactive materials in an environmentally responsible manner, and develop advanced processes for the recycling of spent nuclear fuel. 
Since September 2015, our research team has been awarded three federal grants (almost $5M in funding) to improve nuclear forensics capabilities in the U.S. Two of those grants are led by CVEEN/UNEP Assistant Professor, Luther McDonald; while the third is led by Tolga Tasdizen of the Scientific and Computing Institute (SCI) with McDonald as a collaborator.  In total, this funding is supporting 10 new Ph.D. students in areas relevant to nuclear forensics including: nuclear engineering, environmental engineering, and computer science.

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Recent Publications
  1. McDonald IV, L. W., Campbell, J. A., & Clark, S. B. (2014). Failure of ESI Spectra to Represent Metal-Complex Solution Composition: A Study of Lanthanide–Carboxylate Complexes. Analytical chemistry, 86(2), 1023-1029. Link
  2. McDonald IV, L. W., Campbell, J. A., Vercouter, T., & Clark, S. B. (2016). Characterization of Actinides Complexed to Nuclear Fuel Constituents Using ESI-MS. Analytical chemistry, 88(5), 2614-2621. Link
  3. Levinthal, J.D., Richards, B., Snow, M.S., Watrous, M.G., McDonald IV., L.W., Correlating NORM with the mineralogical composition of shale at the microstructural and bulk scale, Applied Geochemistry (2016). Link
  4. Olsen, Adam Merrill, Bryony Richards, Ian Schwerdt, Sean Heffernan, Robert Lusk, Braxton Smith, Elizabeth Jurrus, Christy E. Ruggiero, and Luther W. McDonald. "Quantifying Morphological Features of α-U3O8 with Image Analysis for Nuclear Forensics." Analytical Chemistry (2017).​ Link
  5. Schwerdt, I. J.; A. Olsen, R. Lusk, S. Heffernan, M. Klosterman, B. Collins, S. Martinson, T. Kirkham, L. McDonald IV; "Nuclear Forensics Investigation of Morphological Signatures in the Thermal Decomposition of Uranly Peroxide." Talanta (Accepted with revisions - 2017).

  • July 28, 2017: Adam's publication in Analytical Chemistry won second place in the 2017 Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Award Program! Way to go Adam!
  • July 26, 2017: Adam and Ian presented posters at the Interagency Technical Nuclear Forensics Program Review at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Ian won a top poster award!
  • July 23, 2017: Ian's paper titled "Nuclear Forensics Investigation of Morphological Signatures in the Thermal Decomposition of Uranyl Peroxide" was accepted to Talanta with minor revisions!
  • May 23, 2017: Ian and Adam will be presenting posters at the Actinide Separations Conference at Argonne National Lab. Stop by and ask them tough questions :-)
  • ​May 19, 2017: The Mac Rad Lab had four abstracts accepted for oral presentations at the 254th American Chemical Society National Meeting in Washington, DC!
  • ​March 26, 2017: We got one of our top recruits! Alexa Hanson will be joining the Mac Rad Lab this Fall!
  • ​January 26, 2017: Adam's paper "Quantifying Morphological Features of α-U3O8 with Image Analysis for Nuclear Forensics" was just accepted to Analytical Chemistry!
  • January 4, 2016: Forbes Recognizes Prof. McDonald as One of "30 Under 30".  http://www.coe.utah.edu/2017/01/04/1186233/