John Smith

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Gamma-ray spectroscopy of exotic pear-shaped nuclei


Research activity per year

Personal profile


I am Head of the Nuclear Physics Research Group at UWS. The Nuclear Physics Research Group at UWS presently includes three other members of academic staff: Dr Klaus Spohr (Senior Lecturer); Dr Marcus Scheck (Lecturer) and Dr David O’Donnell (Lecturer). Professor Robert Chapman has Emeritus status and remains an active member of the group. Typically, we have one or two PDRAs and around six or eight PhD students within our group.

My area of research is experimental nuclear physics. More specifically, my primary area of research interest in nuclear structure – that is, studying the structure are properties of atomic nuclei. The primary goal of my research is to obtain a better understanding of the structure of the atomic nuclei. Most of the nuclei that are of interest in my research do not occur naturally on earth because they are very short lived and rapidly decay towards stability. My research is carried out at large international nuclear-physics laboratories such the University of Jyväskylä Accelerator Laboratory (Finland), Legnaro National Laboratory (Finland) and Argonne National Laboratory (USA).

Although my research is fundamental in nature, many of the methods that are used have applications or extensions outside of the immediate area of nuclear physics. For example, the techniques of radiation detection and measurement can be applied to areas of industry and medicine.

Area of academic expertise - outline

My area of expertise within nuclear physics is the use of gamma-ray spectroscopy to study the structure and properties of exotic atomic nuclei. In a nutshell, this involves inducing a nuclear reaction using a particle accelerator, and then detecting and analysing the gamma rays that are emitted. My experiments therefore normally use large arrays of gamma-ray detectors (such as Jurogam2 in Jyväskylä or Gammasphere in Argonne) which can detect multiple gamma rays in coincidence.  The gamma-ray detector arrays are often augmented with ancillary detectors to carry out channel selection and identification. My research is primarily focussed on two areas: (1) the study of the structure and decay of very proton-rich nuclei close to doubly-magic Sn100 and (2) the study of octupole correlations in the light actinide region and in other areas of the nuclear chart such as the N=Z=56 region (close to Ba112). An important aspect of my research is computational data analysis. My experiments often use several hundred radiation detectors and as such, generate large amounts of complex multi-parameter data. Analysis of the data forms a large part of my research activity and is carried out in dedicated data-analysis laboratories on the UWS Paisley campus.

Target collaborative companies

The methods and techniques used in my research have numerous potential applications that could be of benefit to industry, medicine, and society. For example, expertise in radiation detection and measurement can be used in the assay of nuclear waste or in environmental monitoring. The identification of new nuclear decay modes has potential importance for nuclear medicine.

Although my present area of research is largely fundamental in nature, I would welcome interest from new collaborators from industry or medicine or elsewhere with a view to developing new strands of applied nuclear research based upon the expertise within my group.

Other areas of expertise available for knowledge exchange

My research involves many different areas of nuclear physics including fundamental nuclear structure, nuclear reactions, radiation detection and measurement, and computational data analysis. Within my research group we have a large body of expertise that can be applied to many different areas of the nuclear sector. As such we would be happy to develop bespoke training programmes based on our expertise in the form of short courses for CPD.

Current research activities

I have recently led two experiments at the JYFL laboratory in Jyväskylä, Finland using the SAGE spectrometer to study octupole correlations in Th222 and U224. SAGE consists of silicon detectors for the detection of internal conversion electrons as well as the germanium detectors of Jurogam2, and allows electron-gamma coincidence spectroscopy to be performed. I have also recently led an experiment at the Legnaro National Laboratory in Italy to identify excited states in Ba116 using the new Galileo gamma-ray spectrometer, in conjunction with Euclides and the Neutron Wall for the detection of evaporated particles.

External positions

Postdoctoral Research Associate and Teaching Fellow, The University of Manchester

1 Oct 200231 Jul 2006

Postdoctoral Research Associate, The University of Manchester

17 Nov 199730 Sept 2002

Postdoctoral Research Associate, State University of New York at Stony Brook

1 Nov 19958 Nov 1997


  • QC Physics
  • Nuclear physics
  • Nuclear structure
  • Exotic nuclei
  • Octupole deformation
  • Proton-ruch nuclei
  • Gamma-ray spectroscopy
  • Radiation detection


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Decay spectroscopy at the two-proton drip line: radioactivity of the new nuclides 160Os and 156W

    Briscoe, A. D., Page, R. D., Uusitalo, J., Joss, D. T., AlAqeel, M. A. M., Alayed, B., Andel, B., Antalic, S., Auranen, K., Ayatollahzadeh, H., Badran, H., Barber, L., Beeton, G., Birova, M., Bogdanoff, V., Clark, R. M., Cubiss, J. G., Cullen, D. M., Deary, J. & Forsberg, U. & 44 others, Grahn, T., Greenlees, P. T., Hilton, J. B., Illana, A., Joukainen, H., Judson, D. S., Julin, R., Jutila, H., Keatings, J. M., Labiche, M., Leino, M., Lewis, M. C., Louko, J., Luoma, M., Martel, I., McCarter, A., McKee, P. P., Mosat, P., Nathaniel, S. N., Neuvonen, O., O'Donnell, D., Ojala, J., Page, C. A. A., Plaza, A. M., Pakarinen, J., Papadakis, P., Parr, E., Partanen, J., Rahkila, P., Ruotsalainen, P., Sandzelius, M., Sarén, J., Saygi, B., Smallcombe, J., Smith, J. F., Sorri, J., Sullivan, C. M., Szwec, S., Tann, H., Tolosa-Delgado, A., Uusikylä, E., Venhart, M., Waring, L. J. & Zimba, G., 7 Nov 2023, (E-pub ahead of print) In: Physics Letters B. 847, 8 p., 138310.

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

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    2 Citations (Scopus)
    2 Downloads (Pure)
  • Evolution of nuclear structure in the neutron-rich 96,97,99Nb isotopes: evidence for shape coexistence in N=58 99Nb

    Kumar, V., Chapman, R., O'Donnell, D., Ollier, J., Orlandi, R., Smith, J. F., Spohr, K.-M., Torres, D. A., Wady, P., Tandel, S. K., Freeman, S. J., de Angelis, G., Mǎrginean, N., Napoli, D. R., Valiente-Dobón, J. J., Aydin, S., Farnea, E., Mărginean, R., Mengoni, D. & Kröll, T. & 1 others, Thompson, N., 19 Oct 2023, In: Physical Review C. 108, 044313.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    12 Downloads (Pure)
  • Photo-response of the N= Z nucleus 24 Mg

    Deary, J., Scheck, M., Schwengner, R., O'Donnell, D., Bemmerer, D., Beyer, R., Hensell, T., Junghans, A. R., Kögler, T., Müller, S. E., Römer, K., Schmidt, K., Turkat, S., Urlaß, S., Wagner, A., Bowry, M., Adsley, P., Agar, O., Chapman, R. & Crespi, F. C. L. & 23 others, Doherty, D. T., Friman-Gayer, U., Herzberg, R.-D., Isaak, J., Janssens, R. V. F., Kröll, T., Löher, B., Nara Singh, B. S., von Neumann-Cosel, P., Pellegri, L., Peters, E. E., Rainovski, G., Savran, D., Smith, J. F., Spieker, M., Thirolf, P. G., Triambak, S., Tornow, W., Venhart, M., Wiedeking, M., Wieland, O., Yates, S. W. & Zilges, A., 7 Sept 2023, In: The European Physical Journal A. 59, 10 p., 198.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    8 Downloads (Pure)
  • Coulomb excitation of 222Rn

    Spagnoletti, P., Butler, P. A., Gaffney, L. P., Abrahams, K., Bowry, M., Cederkäll, J., Chupp, T., de Angelis, G., De Witte, H., Garrett, P. E., Goldkuhle, A., Henrich, C., Illana, A., Johnston, K., Joss, D. T., Keatings, J. M., Kelly, N. A., Komorowska, M., Konki, J. & Kröll, T. & 24 others, Lozano, M., Nara Singh, B. S., O'Donnell, D., Ojala, J., Page, R. D., Pedersen, L. G., Raison, C., Reiter, P., Rodriguez, J. A., Rosiak, D., Rothe, S., Scheck, M., Seidlitz, M., Shneidman, T. M., Siebeck, B., Sinclair, J., Smith, J. F., Stryjczyk, M., Van Duppen, P., Viñals, S., Virtanen, V., Wrzosek-Lipska, K., Warr, N. & Zielińska, M., 22 Feb 2022, In: Physical Review C. 105, 2, 10 p., 024323.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    6 Citations (Scopus)
    26 Downloads (Pure)
  • Lifetime measurements of states of 35S, 36S 37S, and 38S using the AGATA γ -ray tracking spectrometer

    Grocutt, L., Chapman, R., Bouhelal, M., Haas, F., Goasduff, A., Smith, J. F., Lubna, R. S., Courtin, S., Bazzacco, D., Braunroth, T., Capponi, L., Corradi, L., Derkx, X., Desesquelles, P., Doncel, M., Fioretto, E., Gottardo, A., Liberati, V., Melon, B. & Mengoni, D. & 15 others, Michelagnoli, C., Mijatović, T., Modamio, V., Montagnoli, G., Montanari, D., Mulholland, K. F., Napoli, D. R., Petrache, C. M., Pipidis, A., Recchia, F., Sahin, E., Singh, P. P., Stefanini, A. M., Szilner, S. & Valiente-Dobón, J. J., 16 Aug 2022, In: Physical Review C. 106, 2, 024314.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    3 Citations (Scopus)
    6 Downloads (Pure)