Rising star wins national award

A rising star in the field of nuclear physics has won a national award – and a job at the world’s top nuclear research centre.

University of Brighton PhD graduate Dr Frank Browne has received the ‘Nuclear Physics Early Career Award’ from the Institute of Physics (IOP). And soon after graduating from the university last summer he landed a research job at the RIKEN research institute in Japan, renowned for recently discovering a new element, nihonium.

Dr Browne, 29, won £250 and the opportunity to present his work at the IOP nuclear physics annual conference at the University of Birmingham, starting 3 April.

He explained his research: “The popular image of the atomic nucleus is that of a jumble of protons and neutrons (collectively known as nucleons) arranged in a spherical shape at the centre of the atom. However, in reality the nucleons are arranged in well-defined shells, much like the electrons are in atoms. The arrangement of these shells can cause the nucleus to take on different shapes.

“In a nutshell, through the application of an array of novel radiation detectors developed by the universities of Brighton and Surrey, I was able to measure how much like a rugby ball some unstable nuclei looked like. This measurement paves the way for more robust theoretical descriptions of how the protons and neutrons behave in the nuclear medium. It also validates this novel technique for future experiments at next-generation accelerator facilities.”

Dr Browne, from Norfolk, said he “loved” studying in Brighton but equally loves working in Japan: “I am at the same facility where I carried out the experimental work of my PhD. It’s the world’s premiere nuclear physics research facility and, as such, it is where some of the big breakthroughs in the field are happening, being a part of that is really exciting.”

Dr Browne is a current recipient of a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship for Overseas Researchers, one of just 120 awarded from more than 1,200 applicants. And from March next year he will take up his position as a Special Postdoctoral Researcher at RIKEN.

Dr Browne’s supervisor, Professor Alison Bruce, the university’s Professor of Physics, said: “The level of Frank’s achievement is recognised by him being awarded two prestigious fellowships at the world renowned Riken facility.

“I have enjoyed watching him develop from a tentative new PhD student to his current position where he is defining his own research programme using state-of-the-art world class research facilities.”

For information on related courses at the University of Brighton click here and for more information on the university’s nuclear physics research click here.

GROUP PHOTO: Pictured at RIKEN are Dr Browne (right), Professor Bruce (rear) and Dr Oliver Roberts and Dr Cristina Nita, both Research Fellows at the university at the time.

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