I am Head of the Physics Research Discipline in the School of Physical Sciences at The Open University. My research focusses on modelling molecular electronic processes initiated by electrons, positrons and photons involving the continuum using mainly R-matrix based approaches. Current activity:

  • study of electron and positron-molecule collisions, in particular, the description of electronic excitation and resonance formation. Application to radiation damage, astrophysics and plasma technologies.
  • re-engineering and development of a set of high-quality, developer- and user-friendly, Atomic and Molecular high performance computing codes to treat both electron photon interactions with polyatomic molecules (R-MADAM project).
  • study of microhydration effects on electron scattering from biologically relevant molecules and scattering from small molecular clusters. Multiple-scattering.
  • study of photoionization of small molecules.

I am a member of the Commission on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (C15) of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics and a Specialist Editor for Computer Physics Communications. I co-char the High-end Computing Consortium UK-AMOR

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PhD studentship available for 2019

The deadline for formal applications is 10 June. Interviews will take place (probably via skype) on Friday 14 or Monday 17 June. For an informal discussion of this opportunity contact Jimena as soon as possible: Jimena.Gorfinkiel@open.ac.uk. Two possible projects are described below, although other options will be considered.

Electron and positron scattering data for radiation bio-matter modelling

Electrons and positrons play a role in the interaction of radiation with biological material: electrons are generated in large quantities by the ionizing radiation used in medical treatment; positrons are used in medical imaging (PET scans). Understanding the mechanisms and effect of electrons and positrions on biological molecules can help improve how we use radiation both for medical treatment and imaging. In particular, scattering data are required as input for software that models quantitatively radiation dose and radiation induced damage in biological matter. The project will involve:

1) Determining cross sections for a range of small and mid-size molecules using HPC facilities, liaising with experimentalists and track structure and non-equilibrium charged particle transport modellers to establish greatest data needs.

2) Developing an approach to adapting the gas phase/cluster data to the modelling of e-/e+ scattering from molecules in gases and soft-condensed (disordered) materials. Although it is possible to accurately calculate cross sections for molecules and small molecular clusters in the gas phase, a methodological gap remains related to how to use it to model the effects of radiation on soft-condensed material.

The project is linked to a collaboration with several Australian universities entitled Positrons in biosystems and project provides an opportunity to develop high performance computing skills while investigating fascinating molecular physics phenomena of relevance in medical applications.

Electron impact neutral dissociation of triatomic molecules

It is well known that low energy electrons can site-selectively break molecules via a process known as dissociative electron attachment (DEA). Some of the products formed in DEA can be highly reactive (anions, neutral radicals) and therefore initiate other chemical process. Another electron induced process that can lead to the formation of radicals is neutral dissociation. Despite decades of intense experimental and theoretical activity on DEA, little work has been performed on neutral dissociation. However, a full description of, for example, low temperature industrial plasmas used for etching, requires the inclusion of this process. We will calculate cross sections for neutral dissociation via electronic excitation for triatomic molecules. We will develop and apply an approach involving the use of the R-matrix method and the UKRmol+ suite to determine the cross sections for the excitation step and an approach previously used successfully to study predissociation of H2O+ to describe the dissociation. The first system to be studied will be water due to its relevance in the description of radiation damage in biological systems.