IOP recognises Professor Simon Hooker

29 October 2020

Headshot Simon Hooker

Professor Simon Hooker from the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics has been awarded the Institute of Physics’ Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Medal and Prize in recognition of his distinguished contributions to plasma physics.

Pioneering contributions

The award recognises in particular Professor Hooker’s pioneering contributions to the development of high-power plasma waveguides and their application to laser-driven plasma accelerators.

‘I am absolutely delighted to receive this award on behalf of the very talented and hard-working group of graduate students, post-docs, and collaborators I have been fortunate to work with,’ confirms Professor Hooker.

Professor Hooker is internationally known for his world-leading research into novel waveguides capable of guiding relativistically-intense laser pulses. He invented the gas-filled capillary discharge waveguide and applied this novel waveguide to laser-driven plasma accelerators. In collaborative experiments with the group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, this approach was used to reach an electron energy of 1GeV for the first time in a laser-driven plasma accelerator. This widely recognised milestone was reported in The Economist as well as in scientific journals, and the paper describing this work has been cited well over 1,000 times. The discovery opens the way to the development of lab-scale GeV accelerators.

Worldwide application

The capillary discharge waveguides developed by Professor Hooker and his group are now used by many groups around the world.The applications in science and technology are numerous, from hospital-based diagnostic imaging to opening novel research fronts in high-field QED science.

Professor Hooker and his research group have contributed to many other important developments in plasma accelerators, including identification of a mechanism for controlling electron injection by laser ionisation; the first generation of soft X-ray undulator radiation from laser-accelerated electrons; and all-optical steering of laser-accelerated electron beams.

Advancing plasma accelerators

Professor Hooker’s most recent work has shown that plasma accelerators can be driven by a train of lower energy optical pulses, potentially allowing plasma accelerators to be driven at multi-kilohertz pulse repetition rates by capitalising on state-of-the-art laser developments and new forms of all-optical plasma waveguides.

Professor Ian Shipsey, Head of Department at Oxford’s Department of Physics concludes: 'Simon is a much-respected member of our Department and his work has continually pushed the boundaries of our understanding of what can be done. He is an embodiment of our mission to bring the transformative power of physics to some of the foremost scientific problems of our age and developing solutions that also have societal impact. Eight esteemed physicists have received the Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin medal since its inception in 2008 and Simon is the third to have come from our Department following Professor Alexander Schekochihin in 2019 and Professor Peter Norreys in 2013. This remarkable feat is testament to our expertise in this field.'

Find out more: https://www.iop.org/about/awards/2020-cecilia-payne-gaposchkin-medal-and-prize