This year, another PhD student from our group, Sam Donnald, was the top student in the department selected for the PhD Graduate Research Excellence Award.
Here’s the citation: “Sam Donnald is a BS and MS graduate of the UT Nuclear Engineering Department. In his PhD research, he has worked with UT’s Scintillation Materials Research Center to experimentally investigate the light yield proportionality of a particular scintillator called YAP that has been observed to only sometimes behave in a proportional manner, depending on crystal growth conditions. It is important for the community to understand what causes light yield proportionality and how to control it because it is one of two factors that affect scintillator energy resolution, which, in turn impacts many applications, including the ability to detect and identify nuclear threat sources. During his research career, Sam has built laboratory capabilities, conducted simulations, grown crystals, conducted a variety of measurements, and analyzed all associated data, mostly independently. A true team player, Sam is now a student that younger student researchers go to for assistance. Last year, Sam made a high visibility presentation in Shanghai at the SCINT 2013 conference. Furthermore, Sam has three peer reviewed publications in total, two of these as first author. Of paticular note, one esteemed researcher in the field commented, ‘your paper on variability of nonproportionality in YAP from different preparations really grabs my interest from a fundamental viewpoint. It is a paper that has needed to be written.’ “