Physicists have hypothesised that neutrinos—one of the most abundant fundamental particles in the universe—could be the origin of all matter observed in the universe today. However, despite their abundance, neutrinos are some of the most elusive particles to detect, and after decades of research, physicists still have many questions about their makeup, properties, and role in the universe’s origin.

Dr John Nugent
Dr John Nugent, University of Glasgow

Research Associate with the Particle Physics Experiment group at the University of Glasgow, Dr John Nugent, received a £10K RSE Scotland Asia Partnerships Higher education Research (SAPHIRE) Fund award to exploit data from the most sensitive neutrino detector on earth, the T2K (Tokai-to-Kamioka) Experiment in Japan.

During his award, Dr Nugent focused on neutrino cross-section measurements using the WAGASCI near-detector to develop the multiple aspects of analysis required to complete the unique T2K Experiment.

The RSE award also enabled Dr Nugent to recruit and train two researchers in advanced data analysis techniques to interrogate the findings from the T2K Experiment. The group simulated the high-intensity proton beam generated at J-PARC in Japan which produces neutrinos and they studied the fundamental physics interactions of the neutrinos with complex nuclei. Dr Nugent explained that a detailed understanding of both of these topics is necessary in order to achieve the world’s most precise measurement of neutrino properties.

He commented,

Only by refining our techniques in each area can we make the most sensitive measure of neutrino properties to date and begin to understand their role in the evolution of the cosmos.”

Inside the Super-Kamiokande, the far detector of T2K.
Image credit: Kamioka Observatory, ICRR (Institute for Cosmic Ray Research), The University of Tokyo

On, next-steps, Dr Nugent said,

This award has had a significant impact on my career. I was recently awarded a Royal Society JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue the research I developed during my RSE SAPHIRE award. The support from the RSE has also enabled critical research, ensuring that Scotland remains at the forefront of major developments in the field of fundamental particle physics.”


SAPHIRE is a grant with the aim of enhancing the existing international research partnerships between Scottish universities and partners in Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.