School PhD student wins SUPA prize

Helena David
Helena David

Nuclear Physics Group student wins the annual SUPA presentation award.

Congratulations to Helena David, of the Edinburgh Nuclear Physics group, who won the competition to find the best student talk at the annual SUPA General Meeting this spring.

As part of the day’s events, postgraduate students from eight Scottish universities presented their work in a competition to find the best student talk, with a first prize of £500 to be spent on a conference of the winner's choice. The panel of judges - Prof. Charles Cockell (Ex-OU and new PaLS Chair), Dr. Allan Colquhoun (SELEX Galileo) and Margaret McGarry (Lambie McGarry) - made comments after each presentation, and the winner was chosen by the audience. Entrants represented the diversity of physics areas covered by SUPA: from protein synthesis to star formation and the LHC.

Helena's talk - entitled “Measurements of exotic nuclei for explosive nuclear astrophysics” - described her work with the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, which involves using the GAMMASPHERE gamma-ray detector array to obtain precise structure information of exotic nuclei that are important in explosive astrophysical scenarios, like X-ray bursts.

The Edinburgh-Argonne collaboration has developed a new detection system that uses a highly segmented double-sided silicon strip detector (DSSD) to allow gamma-rays from exotic beta-unstable nuclei to be measured with a high degree of selectivity, greatly suppressing background from unwanted isobars. Exotic nuclei of interest in X-ray bursters are often characterised by a very short beta-decay half-life. The system takes advantage of this by making clean correlations between the exotic nuclei and their subsequent beta-decay. The effectiveness of the new method is demonstrated in figure 1. Note that a previously obscured peak in the more exotic nucleus 62Ga at 276 keV becomes prominent when using the new system.

SUPA (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance) is an alliance of the physics departments of eight Scottish universities.