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Boost for UK’s nuclear physics research

Posted on 19 September 2014

The UK’s nuclear physics research capability will be strengthened significantly with the establishment of a new nuclear physics theory group at the University of York.

A special funding award from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will pave the way for the appointment of a nuclear physics theory chair and PhD studentship, while in addition York will fund a nuclear physics theory lectureship.

The move is driven by a strategic need for theory and modelling support to the UK’s national experimental programme which was identified in a 2012 Institute of Physics report.

Professor Bob Wadsworth, from York’s Department of Physics, said: “The fact that there are only a handful of UK academics working on nuclear physics theory has been highlighted as a serious issue for the status of nuclear physics research in the UK.

“At the moment, experimental nuclear physicists working in the UK frequently need to seek support from theorists in Europe, Japan or the United States. Having more theorists in the UK will be invaluable to the UK nuclear physics community.”

Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive of STFC, welcomed the announcement: “This initiative was identified as a priority, both in community consultation and by our advisory panels, which has led to STFC providing this additional funding to strengthen the UK programme in nuclear physics theory. This new collaboration between STFC and the University of York reinforces our commitment to help keep the UK at the forefront of nuclear physics research.”

Nuclear Physics is the study of the heavy but tiny nucleus that lies at the centre of all atoms and makes up 99.9 per cent by mass of everything we see. Experimental nuclear physicists at York are studying the fundamental properties of atomic nuclei, the origin of elements in the cosmos and applications of nuclear technology.   

The new theory group will complement the work of York’s experimental groups and will work closely with theory groups at Manchester and Surrey Universities, as well as other groups across Europe and beyond.

Professor Mike Bentley, from York’s Department of Physics, said: “Good theory input is essential to experimentalists working in nuclear physics. Theorists can help suggest interesting phenomena to look out for when conducting experiments, provide calculations before an experiment takes place and help with the interpretation of data. They also provide crucial input to the planning of new experiments to help address the science questions of greatest fundamental importance.” 

Professor Sarah Thompson, Head of York’s Department of Physics, said: “By working with the existing theory centres in the UK and across Europe, the new nuclear physics theory group will increase the profile of the UK in this field, attract high-calibre visitors to the country and aid access to European funding. The new group will also provide an excellent means of engaging more people with the research work we are doing experimentally at York.”

The new chair is expected to be in place by March 2015, the lecturer by June 2015 and the studentship will begin in October 2015. STFC will fund the chair position for approximately three and a half years, after which time York will take on the funding of the post.

Further information:

  • The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security. 

The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar. 

STFC is the UK sponsor of nuclear physics research and it’s Nuclear Physics Group supports and contributes to the UK’s Nuclear Structure research programme. In addition STFC operates or hosts world class experimental facilities including in the UK the ISIS pulsed neutron source, the Central Laser Facility, and LOFAR, and is also the majority shareholder in Diamond Light Source Ltd. 

It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities by funding membership of international bodies including European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). STFC is one of seven publicly-funded research councils. It is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Follow us on Twitter at @STFC_Matters 


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