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2023 Ernest Rutherford Medal and Prize

Professor David Jenkins for outstanding contributions to experimental nuclear physics and commitment to widening participation.


David Jenkins award winner

Professor David Jenkins is a research leader who has made outstanding contributions to experimental nuclear physics, nuclear applications and widening participation in physics.

Jenkins is head of the nuclear physics group at the University of York. Under his leadership, the group has grown to be the largest in the UK with flourishing research programmes in experimental nuclear physics, nuclear theory, nuclear astrophysics and hadron physics. Jenkins has built bridges between these interlinked themes that are answering key questions related to the nature of nucleon–nucleon correlations, fission in nuclei and the physics of neutron stars.

Jenkins has an outstanding track record in experimental nuclear physics where his research is characteristically broad in scope. He has developed new techniques for the study of exotic proton-rich nuclei such as recoil-beta tagging. In nuclear astrophysics, he has pioneered new techniques to study carbon burning in massive stars and to study key reactions in nova nucleosynthesis. He has contributed strongly to our understanding of clustering in nuclei and nuclear shape coexistence. In 2021, with longstanding collaborator John Wood, he published an ebook titled Nuclear Data: A Primer intended to provide an introduction to the next-generation of nuclear physicists.

Jenkins also has a strong track record in applied research with a focus on detector development for bespoke applications in homeland security, nuclear decommissioning and medical imaging. He collaborates widely with UK and international industry, and holds several patents. His successful knowledge transfer to Kromek Group PLC over the last decade in the area of scintillator detectors was recognised as a 4* impact case in REF2021. In 2020, he published an ebook titled Radiation Detection for Nuclear Physics: Methods and Industrial Applications intended to be of use to both nuclear physicists and those in wider industry.

Jenkins is also recognised for his contribution to widening participation. He held a Science and Technology Facilities Council Science-in-Society fellowship and worked with the National Science Learning Centre in York to provide continuous professional development courses for schoolteachers on nuclear physics. In the last five years, he has been leading Global Challenges Research Fund projects with the University of the Western Cape and the University of Zululand in South Africa. Students from these historically disadvantaged universities have come to York to receive training in detector development and nuclear applications. Funding has been used to develop the Modern African Nuclear DEtector LAboratory (MANDELA) across the South African universities providing a strong legacy.