Photo of Professor Laura Harkness-Brennan

Professor Laura Harkness-Brennan PhD MPhys PGCert MInstP FHEA

Professor of Physics and Associate pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Impact for Science & Engineering Physics


Personal Statement

I am a Professor in the Department of Physics and Associate pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Impact for the Faculty of Science and Engineering. For the past decade I have been leading a research team of postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers to deliver projects on gamma-ray spectroscopy and imaging. I have secured £36M funding as PI/CoI from UKRI and industry to underpin this research and have leadership roles within international collaborations, including the European AGATA nuclear physics project. I have a track record in delivering award-winning teaching and encouraging underrepresented groups into physics. In my APVC role I oversee strategic development of activities in research and impact, working closely with the EPVC and members of the Faculty Management Team. I also collaborate on institutional strategic initiatives with the PVC Research and Impact.

I have Chaired and been a member of many external advisory boards and funding panels. In 2023/24 I Chaired an External Review of the STFC Technology Development Review Board, by invitation of the STFC Executive Board. In 2023 I was appointed as a a member of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) Science and Technology Advisory council STAC, providing independent strategic advice to NPL on the quality, international standard and relevance of their activities. Over the past decade I have participated in many International and UKRI panels including:

(1) Large projects (STFC Project Peer Review panel, DFG German Excellence Strategy Clusters of Excellence),
(2) Fellowships (STFC Ernest Rutherford, UKRI Future Leaders),
(3) PGR (STFC Industrial CASE studentships)
(4) Interdisciplinary, Innovation and commercialisation (UKRI Cross Council Responsive mode, STFC Late stage research and development panel, STFC Early Tech development, UKRI Developing basic technologies in sensing and imaging, FCT Portugal Physics R and D projects)
(5) Global Challenge and ODA (STFC Newton Malaysia, STFC Global Challenge Research fund)

My research activities have been supported through the awards of £5M as PI and £31M as CoI for research projects to:

(1) develop algorithms to extract gamma-ray interaction position from room temperature semiconductor detectors
(2) develop novel room temperature semiconductor detectors for nuclear decommissioning
(3) develop SIGMA, which is a new germanium detector for gamma-ray spectroscopy and tracking,
(4) develop a system for quantitative imaging in molecular radiotherapy,
(5) evaluate the performance of systems for spectroscopy and imaging of nuclear fuel.
(6) develop the stopping target monitor for the Mu2e experiment at Fermilab

I also lead the STFC Cancer Diagnosis Network+, which is a national research network aiming to develop new techniques and technologies in cancer diagnosis by bringing together physicists from the STFC community with researchers and Clinicians from other disciplines. The network organises thematic workshops and funding calls for proof of concept activities and early career researcher development.

I am actively engaged in outreach, including delivering talks and workshops at schools and public events. I am a committee member for the Institute of Physics Nuclear Physics Group. In 2018 and 2023 I published first and second editions of the book An introduction to the Physics of Nuclear Medicine, as part of the Morgan and Claypool Institute of Physics Concise series. I am also an editorial board member for the IPEM-IOP Series in Physics and Engineering in Medicine and Biology.

Prizes or Honours

  • Science Award - Highly Commended (Women of The Future, 2015)
  • Very Early Career Award (Institute of Physics Women in Physics Group, 2010)

Other Personal Distinctions

  • PGCert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Distinction) (University of Liverpool, 2016)
  • Aurora leadership programme (Leadership Foundation, 2015)