Two Manchester physicists awarded Ernest Rutherford Fellowships

Two physicists from The University of Manchester are among ten new recipients of Ernest Rutherford Fellowships from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The awards aim to help promising scientists to realise their research ambitions.

Dr Lucia Grillo and Dr David Sharp, both of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, have been awarded five-year fellowships to establish strong, independent research programmes.

Ernest Rutherford Fellows are identified as talented early career researchers who do not hold an academic position but have clear leadership potential. They will conduct research in a number of areas of science, including astrophysics, nuclear physics, theoretical particle physics and cosmology.

The scheme provides funding for research programmes and encourages talented researchers in UK universities to remain in the country, and at the same time attracts outstanding overseas researchers to the UK.

Through these prestigious fellowships, STFC supports the very best researchers at a relatively early stage in their careers, enabling them to build on their already excellent research. The aim is to attract the most talented and innovative scientists from the UK and abroad. These awards also enable the Fellows to advance their careers by further developing their independence and leadership.

Professor Mark Thomson, Particle Physicist and Executive Chair of STFC

Dr Grillo is an Experimental Particle Physicist and her research title is 'Finding true LUV'. In the current understanding of fundamental particles, leptons such as the electron, and its heavier partners muon and tau, behave in exactly the same manner (lepton universality). Any observed departure from this principle, lepton universality violation or LUV, would be a paradigm shifting discovery and revolutionise our description of nature. 

Having led the working group pursuing first tests of lepton universality, as well as other high precision measurements at the LHCb experiment at CERN, Dr Grillo now aims to establish whether or not LUV is real, and if so to understand the nature of new phenomena leading to these effects.

In addition, she will have a leading role in the design and performance optimisation of the tracking system for the future LHCb upgrade detector.

Dr Sharp is a Nuclear Physicist and his research focuses on studying the structure of atomic nuclei to better understand the fundamental forces between neutrons and protons. In order to understand the behaviour of all nuclei across the nuclear chart, and how they are produced in the astrophysical processes such as neutron-star mergers, nuclear physicists have to study nuclei that live for only a very short amount of time, less than a second in many cases.

This requires state-of-the-art facilities and techniques. A number of upgraded or new facilities that produce radioactive nuclei as beams for study are soon to start operation; the aim of this Fellowship is to use these new devices to study the structure of exotic nuclei and the reactions they undergo, such as nuclear fission.

Better understanding of these processes in exotic nuclei will inform understanding of the formation of the elements in astrophysical environments.

Read the full list of Ernest Rutherford Fellows 2020.

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