Jefferson Lab prize for Edinburgh student

Daria Sokhan

Edinburgh nuclear physicist Daria Sokhan has been awarded the 2009 Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) thesis prize.

Daria wins a $2000 prize, a commemorative plaque to be placed in Jefferson Lab and the opportunity to present her thesis results at the annual Jefferson Lab user meeting. She shares this year’s award with Andrew Puckett from MIT.

The work by Daria which the award recognises will be a crucial part of the measurement programme aiming to accurately determine the properties of the excited states of the neutron and proton. These are complicated composite quantum systems comprising quarks and gluons interacting with each other and the vacuum.

Daria’s thesis work used the intense transversely polarised high-energy photon beam at Jefferson Lab to excite target neutrons into various excited states. A superconducting magnetic toroidal spectrometer (CLAS) was used to detect the decay products from the subsequent decay of the excited states a few trillion-trillionths of a second later.

As with any composite system, the excitation spectrum gives a window to test our understanding of the interactions and dynamics of its constituents. The energy associated with the interactions of the constituents of the proton and neutron are responsible for over 95 per cent of their mass (E=mc2) and therefore most of the mass of the visible universe.

Daria said: "I was delighted to receive the prize. It's in large part due to the great opportunity Edinburgh offered to work at such a fantastic facility abroad and of course the excellent supervision and support I received back here. Drinks all round!”

Her PhD supervisor Dan Watts said, “It’s great to see Daria’s work recognised in this way. Her results are a crucial missing piece in obtaining a better understanding of the dynamics of the nucleon. I would expect her to take the nuclear group out on the town using that generous award!"

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Jefferson Lab provides a continuous electron beam with energy up to 6 GeV. An upgrade to 12 GeV will start in 2011. The Lab is in Virginia, a few hours south of Washington DC, and it caters for around 1000 outside users per year.

About the award

The Thesis Prize is awarded to a graduate student who has carried out research related to Jefferson Lab science. It is awarded for the best graduate student thesis and includes a prize of $2,000 and a commemorative plaque placed at the lab.  Four areas are considered in rating the submitted theses: the quality of the written dissertation; the student's contribution to the research; the work's impact on the field of physics; and service (how the work benefits Jefferson Lab or other experiments).

Image gallery

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The CLAS detector used by Daria at Jefferson Lab.