2014 Rutherford medal and prize

Professor Paul Nolan, University of Liverpool. For his outstanding contributions to Nuclear structure at extremes of angular momentum and his leading role in the development of segmented Germanium detector technology.

Paul Nolan

The nucleus at high angular momentum is a unique many body quantum system which can now be studied in great detail, in no small part due to the developments in experimental technique led by Paul Nolan. Paul has made outstanding contributions to high spin physics throughout his career, from the study of superdeformation in heavy nuclei to a detailed understanding of the processes that happen when angular momentum can no longer be generated from the alignment of nucleons.

This research has prompted the construction of large gamma ray spectrometers using composite and later segmented germanium detectors. Paul has been a driving force behind the worldwide effort to create the EUROBALL spectrometer- a powerful gamma-ray spectrometer for nuclear spectroscopy, and now the AGATA Advanced GAmma Tracking Array. AGATA, and its US counterpart GRETINA, will allow unprecedented insights into nuclear structure.

Paul’s instrumentation expertise also found application in the development of the ALPHA detector at CERN, used to study anti-hydrogen.

Paul Nolan has also applied the technology developed for nuclear physics to other fields. He has led the development of Compton Cameras for medical imaging, homeland security and nuclear decommissioning. These cameras are under investigation for positron emission tomography and singe photon emission computed tomography – studies of the latter have now progressed to pre-clinical trials. The position and energy sensitivity of the detectors allows the reduction of the dose delivered to patients during imaging and provides improved image quality. These cameras are also being investigated for cargo scanning at sea and air ports and remote imaging of nuclear decommissioning sites, just a few of the potential further applications.