2016 Rutherford Medal and prize of the Institute of Physics

Professor John Simpson, STFC Daresbury Laboratory, for his outstanding leadership in the development of new detector technologies and systems for experimental nuclear physics research within the UK and Europe, and for his seminal contributions to our understanding of the structure of atomic nuclei, especially in revealing new properties of nuclei at the limits of angular momentum, deformation, and stability.

Picture of John Simpson

Professor John Simpson has made outstanding contributions to our understanding of nuclear structure, especially of the properties of nuclei at the limits of angular momentum, deformation and stability.

He has seminal works in areas such as the discovery of robust exotic triaxial superdeformed collective structures, which represent possibly the highest spin values ever observed in atomic nuclei, the persistence and eventual demise of pairing correlations under rotation, nuclear superdeformation, and the spectroscopy of extremely neutron-deficient nuclei.

A fellow of the IOP, he has contributed significantly to the health and vitality of world-leading nuclear physics research over the past four decades through his leadership in the development of new detector technologies, which have transformed the field of nuclear spectroscopy. This includes the large arrays of escape-suppressed germanium spectrometers and the development of composite germanium detectors used, for example, in the European gamma-ray spectrometer collaboration EXOGAM, for which Simpson was the project leader.

Simpson played a leading role in the development of the EUROBALL gamma-ray spectrometer collaboration as the chair of the Design and Infrastructure Group, which had responsibility for the project’s delivery. He was responsible for the conceptual design and planning of many gamma-ray spectrometers for several European laboratories, and has spearheaded the next revolutionary step in high-resolution gamma-ray spectroscopy, using the technique of gamma–ray energy tracking.

Many technological innovations have been necessary in order to make tracking possible, and Simpson has played a leading role in the formation of a collaboration involving 12 countries to build the tracking detector AGATA, serving as the project manager, chair of the management board, and the international spokesperson of the collaboration. He is also exploiting the instrumentation and technical advances driven by these developments through projects in applied areas of societal importance in medical imaging, security systems, waste and environmental monitoring.