Advancing inter-nuclear interactions for application to nuclear reactions

On this research project, the candidate will work on developing models for the advanced interactions between colliding nuclei based on state-of-the-art models of their internal structure.

Start date

1 October 2023


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

University of Surrey

Funding information

UKRI stipend


Colliding atomic nuclei in accelerators are an invaluable source of information about their structure obtained through matching observables with theoretical predictions. The predictions heavily rely on the knowledge of interaction potentials between the projectile and target. These potentials, called "optical potentials", borrowed their name from optics which deals with a concept of complex refractive index. The real part of this index describes how the light is transmitted and the imaginary one describes how it is absorbed by the medium. Similarly, the real part of nuclear optical potentials describes the scattering process while its imaginary part accounts for the loss of incoming flux due to the complicated many-body processes that involve nuclear excitations and rearrangements. The derivation of an optical potential from first principles, based on underlying interactions between nucleons from projectile and target, is a longstanding problem in theoretical nuclear physics.

Today, several research groups based in different countries around the world invested their effort in solving these problems. Significant progress in this direction has been achieved for the case when one of the colliding nuclei is just one nucleon, neutron or proton, and when its energy is high. In this case, theory is precise enough to provide a good description of the experimental data and, at the same time, to provide robust predictions for the future experimental studies that will be performed in major international research facilities. However, many problems in computing optical potentials from first principles remain. The goal of this project is to further develop the current framework that is used to calculate the optical potential and extend it to a larger range of energies, target mass, and scattering processes, aiming to provide a physical insight useful for the future developments of phenomenological tools that are used during the analysis of the experimental data.

Related links

Training and development opportunity: through this project, you will be given an opportunity to build your skills and knowledge on cutting-edge topics in theoretical nuclear physics including, theoretical and numerical methods to solve the many-body problem, nucleon-nucleon and three-nucleon interactions in the context of effective field theories, and renormalisation group techniques. You will also collaborate with international researchers and present your results at national/international conferences. Finally, you will be supported by the supervision team on building your skills as an independent researcher.

The environment: The University of Surrey is at the heart of the town of Guildford. We have a highly diverse research environment with a good gender and ethical balance. The student will have access to the available facilities on campus with ample supports from professional research staff. The student will be involved in the multidisciplinary school of Engineering Science for Health….

The candidate: We are looking for an enthusiastic, self-motivated student to work on this exciting project. The ideal candidate should have a basic knowledge of quantum mechanics and nuclear physics, basic programming skills, good communication skills, and most importantly, a determined mindset to pursue the research project.

Interested students can contact Matteo Vorabbi at Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Eligibility criteria

UK candidates only, only UK fees covered.

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Master’s degree (distinction normally required).

IELTS minimum 6.5 overall with 6.0 in Writing, or equivalent.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Physics PhD programme page. The application should be submitted as a single PDF file containing CV, personal statement (one page maximum) and contacts for two references. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Matteo Vorabbi
11 BB 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689327


Theoretical Nuclear Physics Group

The project will be supervised by Dr Matteo Vorabbi and Dr Natalia Timofeyuk at the University of Surrey. Dr Matteo Vorabbi is a Lecturer at the School of Mathematics and Physics with research experience in the field of theoretical nuclear reactions. Dr Natalia Timofeyuk is a Senior Researcher in the same school specialising in nuclear reaction theory and the structure of light nuclei.


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