Training of Students and Scientists in the Republic of Armenia in the safety and fundamental science uses of cyclotrons.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


This is a proposal for the training of graduate students and scientific staff of A. Alikhanyan National Science Laboratory (ANSL), Armenia in the operation of cyclotrons for science, applications, isotope production, and medical physics. Armenia is a nuclear-energy country and its strategic location makes radiation monitoring important. There are also significant mining interests. The Republic of Armenia has invested in the purchase and installation of an 18-MeV cyclotron from IBA-Belgium. The international advisory body of the institute recommended that Armenia implement a research programme in low-energy nuclear science along with a cyclotron that can produce isotopes for nuclear medicine. The cyclotron is fully constructed as well as the building that houses it. The missing component is the experience and skill set of the graduate students and staff in the use and operation of the facility. This is needed to secure approval for running the machine. This proposal will engage students from ANSL and the three universities in Yerevan (the capital of Armenia) in strong in STEM subjects, namely, the Yerevan State University, the Yerevan Polytechnic University, and the Russian University of Armenia.

Associated with this request for training and education in the safe operation of the cyclotron operation are radiation monitoring aspects. This is needed as radio-isotopes that the cyclotron can produce are key to diagnosing and treating many health conditions, such as a variety of cancers. The new PET and SPECT instruments at ANSL can be used effectively to improve health outcomes once the cyclotron is producing isotopes for medicine. The ANSL in Armenia has been recognised as the strongest scientific institution in the country and they are able to grant both Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees at the graduate level.
The expertise in low energy nuclear science is completely missing in Armenia. All of the reasons why a robust education and training programme in nuclear science are crucial for the well-being and advancement of Armenia.

This proposal aims to address the nuclear science training needs in Armenia. The Universities of Birmingham and Surrey have an established history of low-energy nuclear physics teaching and research. Additionally, since the 1940s Birmingham has operated cyclotrons for both nuclear physics research and medical isotopes production. This expertise will be used to offer much needed training for Armenia in two stages.
1) Four-week training courses will be delivered by UK academics at ANSL for post-graduate students. This will take place in both 2019 and 2020.
2) The best five students as selected by ANSL and UK academics will travel to the UK for a month to undertake hands-on nuclear spectroscopy training both at the University of Surrey/National Physical Laboratory and at the Birmingham cyclotron.

These skills will provide the practical grounding for those students to proceed to the PhD programme in Armenia and form the core of a new generation able to carry out and teach such skills, essential for the economic development of Armenia.

Planned Impact

The impact from this proposal is clear and will be long-lasting and the Uk's involvement with the training outlined follows on from Birmingham and Surrey's contributions to the conference currently being organised for the end of September in Yerevan, "Correlations in Partonic and Hadronic Interactions 2018". Not only will our researchers (Tz. Kokalova Wheldon and P.H. Regan) participate via dissemination of their research, but will undertake outreach activities, together with institutions from the USA and Germany to engage the Armenian public with the fundamentals of nuclear physics and the isotopes.

We expect this proposal to be a game-changer for Armenia with the training and operation of the cyclotron in the short term as well as the long term.

Short Term Impact: The immediate impacts are in the safe operation of the cyclotron and the education and training of staff and graduate students to develop a skill set that is non-existent today. This training will enable Armenia to get approval from IBA for the safe operation of the cyclotron and more expert preparation of the production of isotopes for medical use. Presently, Armenia does not have nuclear medicine and the health situation in the country is one of the worst in the world due to the inability to diagnose or treat cancers.

Medium Term Impact: The training of a significant group of graduate students in various aspects of radiation monitoring and basic experimental skills of nuclear science and the instruments of nuclear science will create the expertise in Armenia that can be exploited both in basic science and applications of basic science to agriculture, mining, and nuclear energy. Some of the expertise could result in the development of new industries with respect to testing electronics and developing radiation detectors.

In the longer term, the training proposed here will enable Armenia to join the international community of researchers in the challenges of nuclear science, broadening the participation of this former Soviet country in European enterprises from nuclear physics research on the properties of exotic nuclei. For example enabling Armenia's participation in the Large European facilities such as FAIR at GSI in Germany, SPIRAL2 at GANIL in France, and/or the university centre of excellence in Jyväskylä, Finland.

Perhaps the biggest long term impact might be in the health of the population of Armenia. The development and implementation of nuclear medicine when the isotopes can be produced and used in Armenia.

After the two years detailed in this programme, we're planning to build on this proposal and continue supporting ANS via collaboration around research and cyclotron, and as specialist training needs arise, we will be well placed to respond and offer training and continue with student, and in the future post-doctoral, exchanges.


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