Dr Laurence Nevay

Research interests

My research is focussed on the precise control and delivery of subatomic particle beams in accelerators. I study how particles from the accelerator can impact the particle physics experiments and the accelerator itself. I'm also interested in applying these simulation techniques to medical therapeutic facilities to produce the most accurate dose maps possible.  Particle accelerators are used worldwide for a variety of purposes from manufacturing, to treating cancer, to discovering new subatomic particles such as the Higgs Boson. They are often the backbone of many experiments at the edge of our knowledge, but in themselves require research to deliver the desired high energy particle beams.


Beam Simulation

At Royal Holloway I lead a team in background and energy deposition studies. We have developed a unique simulation tool called Beam Delivery Simulation (BDSIM) that can track particles through the accelerator and, crucially, simulate their interaction with the material of the accelerator itself. This allows the radiation from the accelerator to be accurately simulated providing energy deposition in the magnets and charged particle background to detectors or the delivery point of the beam. As a lot of high energy accelerators use cryogenic components that must not be heated by radiation from the beam, simulations are particularly necessary for successful operation of the accelerator.

I am currently applying my research to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, and its future upgrade, the High Luminosity LHC. The LHC has an unprecedented stored energy of ~350MJ and this must be safely kept clear of the cryogenic magnets that guide it as they can be damaged by even 1 thousand millionth fraction of the beam. I am simulating the precise energy deposition in the cryogenic magnets using the full particle physics library of Geant4. 


Beam Instrumentation

Before coming to Royal Holloway, I was part of the laserwire project at the ATF2 at KEK, Japan from 2007 to 2013. I used a high power mode-locked Nd:YAG laser system to scan the 1 micron wide, 1.3 GeV electron beam measured by detecting the scattered gamma rays. This would a crucial online diagnostic for any future linear collider such as the International Linear Collider. In parallel, I developed a new high power photonic crystal fibre laser with a burst amplification regime to suit the unusual particle bunch pattern of a linear collider. I was also part of the sub-diffraction limit optical transition radiation monitor experiment at the ATF2 that was used to image sub-micron electron beams.


Impact & Applications

Apart from my research toward the LHC, I am interested in applying BDSIM to simulate other lower energy accelerators where knowledge of the charged particle background is crucial, such as medical accelerators.  Radiation being delivered from a medical accelerator must be precisely simulated to ensure the correct treatment.  I am also interested in heat loads in 4th generation light sources that produce intense X-rays for life sciences with BDSIM. Several of these new X-ray sources are coming online worldwide and many will make use of cryogenic accelerating cavities that again require precise simulation of beam losses and radiation that increase the heat load in the cryogenic components.


Biographical Outline:

  • MPhys Physics University of St Andrews, 2002 - 2007
  • DPhil Particle Physics University of Oxford, 2007 - 2011
  • PDRA University of Oxford, 2011 - 2012
  • PDRA Royal Holloway University, 2012 - 2017
  • Project Associate HiLumi LHC at CERN, Geneva (with RHUL) 2017 - present


Teaching & Outreach

I have lectured accelerator physics at Royal Holloway and regularly tutor optics, particle physics and accelerator physics.  In 2016, I gave a public lecture to over 200 people on how to build a particle accelerator and why and how one would simulate it.  With Stephen Gibson and Andrew Casey, I set up our combined accelerator and cryogenics outreach talk with hands-on electrostatic accelerators and cryogenic superconductors presented at university open days, our particle physics master classes and our annual Open Science Saturday at Royal Holloway.


Aside from my scientific research, I combine my personal interest in astronomy with experience in optics and imaging from research through the Royal Holloway teaching observatory where I demonstrate observations and imaging techniques on our university telescopes. A showcase of images taken by myself and students can be found on our observatory instagram page.

An exhibition of my astrophotography from both the Royal Holloway observatory and travels was shown at an exhibition to accompany the 2017 BBC Stargazing Live public lecture at Royal Holloway. A selection is also currently being displayed in the ongoing Hidden Revealed exhibition at Royal Holloway.


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