Eric L Thorsland

Eric L Thorsland
Eric L Thorsland

Primary Research Area

  • Nuclear Physics
Senior Research Engineer
(217) 333-6220


Eric Thorsland is a Senior Research Engineer for the Department of Physics.  Eric started his career in 1994 at Illinois as an Engineering Research Assistant for the Nuclear Physics Lab.  He came with 16 years of experience working at the Plasma Physics Laboratory in Princeton, NJ. From 1995 - 1998 Eric worked with Professor Roy Holt developing and installing a high density laser polarized target using potassium hydrogen spin exchange that was eventually installed as part of a proton cooler beam at the Indiana Cyclotron Facility.  From 1999-2005, Eric's next big project was working on the G0 magnet that eventually went to Jefferson Lab. This while overlapping with work on the Neutron EDM Experiment, doing research and development for projects that involved materials testing and depolarization effects on polarized helium 3. Developing many components including a large bore super-fluid helium valve. Work with this and several other cryogenic projects began his interest in managing helium conservation.

This guided his path to the Liquid Helium Facility here at Illinois Physics.  While he was working on many aspects of cryogenic experiments he wanted to recover helium at the nuclear physics lab, NPL, a lab with no recovery system at the time. With limited funds he built a rudimentary recovery system for NPL which was then too remote to connect to the Physics helium recovery system.  His initial work during this time let to his work with the department to improve their methods of recovery. This effort then evolved and led to the efforts and completion of the Chemistry complex recovery line that connected three chemistry buildings to the Physics recovery via an underground helium line. The first remote connection from separate buildings, completed in 2014.

From 2013 to the present, Eric has been a part of the team that constructed a large area drift chamber for the COMPASS experiment at CERN know as DC-5, a project led by Dr. Riedl of UIUC. This included installation of one of the largest milling machines on campus, located at NPL, an installation Eric coordinated. After construction he was often at CERN working on the final assembly and installation and then maintenance of the DC-5 detector and is frequently at CERN when needed.   He also helped with the construction and assembly of the first ZDC calorimeter prototype at the CERN test beam.

In 2015, Eric started work on the tungsten-scintillating calorimeter project that will become part of the sPHENIX detector at Brookhaven National Lab.  He was the lead developer for the prototype work and part of organizing a small army of student workers to produce the 6000 plus modules to be used in the EMCAL detector in sPHENIX.  In 2019, Eric was officially hired to be part of the Liquid Helium Facility. He now works closely with the cryogenic technician, Kelly Sturdyvin, liquid helium production specialist, and Nikki Colton who developed and manages the digitization of the helium recovery meter readings to help feed into the electronic billing process. In 2020, he was at last able to install a helium recovery line that returns recovered helium gas from the Nuclear Physics Building on Stadium Drive in Champaign, IL back to Loomis Laboratory. 

His future plans include continuing to improve the helium recovery process, working with researchers on recovery techniques. Running the Physics/MRL machine shop and developing a research support group to better help researchers in the department.