Researcher

Associate Professor Julian Berengut

My Expertise

I am a theoretical physicist working on various problems in atomic and nuclear physics. My main expertise is in astrophysical and laboratory searches for variations in the fundamental constants; searches for physics beyond the Standard Model in laboratory experiments; novel atomic and nuclear clocks; precision spectroscopy of highly charged ions; and atomic many-body theory. I wrote and maintain the atomic structure code AMBiT that implements the particle-hole CI+MBPT method (configuration interaction combined with many-body perturbation theory).

My research areas include the interface between atomic and nuclear physics, including precision isotope shift studies, hyperfine structure, nuclear clocks, and electronic bridge processes in nuclei. I have research experience in atomic processes in plasmas, including dielectronic recombination, photoionisation, electron-impact ionisation, and excitation processes. I have pioneered statistical methods based on many-body quantum chaos that can be applied to complex atoms and ions in plasmas.

My research also touches on cosmology, including searches for variation in the fundamental constants in the early universe using big bang nucleosynthesis and studies of quasar absorption systems. I have also been involved in proposing novel laboratory searches for dark matter using atomic systems.

Keywords

Fields of Research (FoR)

Atomic and Molecular Physics, Nuclear Physics, Cosmology and Extragalactic Astronomy

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Biography

I am the Honours Director in the School of Physics, convenor and lecturer for third year and fourth year Quantum Mechanics courses, and convenor for Honours Journal Club. I am a theoretical physicist with over 80 publications with 1800+ citations, and h-index 25.

  • 2020 –          Associate Professor, UNSW
  • 2013 – 2019 Senior Lecturer, UNSW
  • 2012 – 2014 ARC DECRA, UNSW
  • 2008 – 2010 Vice-Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UNSW
  • 2007...view more

I am the Honours Director in the School of Physics, convenor and lecturer for third year and fourth year Quantum Mechanics courses, and convenor for Honours Journal Club. I am a theoretical physicist with over 80 publications with 1800+ citations, and h-index 25.

  • 2020 –          Associate Professor, UNSW
  • 2013 – 2019 Senior Lecturer, UNSW
  • 2012 – 2014 ARC DECRA, UNSW
  • 2008 – 2010 Vice-Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UNSW
  • 2007 – 2008 Adjunct Associate Research Scientist, Columbia University, New York USA
  • 2006 – 2007 Department of Energy Postdoctoral Fellow, Auburn University, Alabama USA

My Grants

  • 2019 ARC Discovery Project “Atomic theory and search for new elementary particles.”
  • 2018 Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers
  • 2014 UNSW Goldstar Award
  • 2013 UNSW MREII “Computational research infrastructure for theoretical and astrophysical data analysis and modeling.”
  • 2012 ARC DECRA “Are the laws of physics changing? New methods for detecting variations in the fundamental constants.”
  • 2011 ARC Discovery Project “Fundamental Physics in Distant Galaxies”
  • 2008 Vice Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

My Qualifications

  • 1996 – 1999 Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Physics with Computer Science), UNSW
    First class honours with University Medal
  • 2002 – 2006 PhD in Physics, UNSW
    “Isotope shift and relativistic shift in atomic spectra”
    Supervisor: Prof. Victor Flambaum

My Awards

  • 2018 Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers
  • 2016 UNSW Rising Star
  • 2013 AIPS Young Tall Poppy Science Award
  • The 2012 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Scientific Research
  • 2012 – 2014 ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award
  • 2002 – 2005 Gordon Godfrey Scholarship for Theoretical Physics
  • 2000 University Medal: Physics with Computer Science

My Research Activities

I am a theoretical physicist working mainly in atomic physics, with crossover to nuclear physics, astrophysics, and cosmology. Much of my work is dedicated to low-energy searches for physics beyond the Standard Model. This field uses precision experiments in atoms and molecules to search for new particles and forces, test whether the fundamental constants change over time, and measure violations of fundamental symmetries. It complements high-energy experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider.

As a quantum mechanic, I am also interested in atomic many-body theory and the cross-over to many-body quantum chaos. I developed the atomic many-body code AMBiT, which has been instrumental in determining properties of atomic transitions such as isotope shift and sensitivity to variation of fundamental constants. It also enabled the discovery of optical transitions in highly-charged ions, which are being used to develop atomic clocks of extremely high accuracy and high sensitivity to potential variations in the fine-structure constant.

Research topics include

  • astrophysical and laboratory searches for variations in the fundamental constants
  • searches for physics beyond the Standard Model
  • quantum mechanics around black holes
  • development of new ultra-precise atomic clocks based on highly charged ions
  • nuclear clocks and electronic-bridge processes
  • atomic and nuclear many-body theory
  • many-body quantum chaos
  • isotope shift in atomic spectra and its application to searches for new physics
  • spectra of superheavy elements

My Research Supervision


Areas of supervision

I have a diverse group of students who work in areas of theoretical physics that are best suited to their skills and interests. I have projects that are more computational or more mathematical, and several projects with experimental and theoretical groups worldwide. I have been primary or co-supervisor for three PhD students who have graduated, and been secondary supervisor to several more. I am also a Partner Investigator of the European Innovative Training Network (ITN) “Laser Ionization and Spectroscopy of Actinide elements”, which received €4 million across 4 years (from 2020) to train early career researchers. Through this ITN, I co-supervise a PhD student in Groningen, and mentor another at GSI Darmstadt. Since 2008, I've supervised 15 honours students at UNSW of which four have gotten the University Medal.


My Engagement

  • Invited lecturer at Summer School “Search for new physics with low-energy precision tests”, University of Groningen, Netherlands, 2017
  • Member of Merit Allocation Committee for the National Computing Infrastructure (NCMAC), 2016 – 2017
  • Conference session organiser (PT4), Marcel Grossman Meeting (MG14), Rome, Italy, 2015

My Teaching

  • School of Physics Honours Director (since 2019)
  • Honours Journal Club convenor (since 2019)
  • 4th year Quantum Mechanics (Honours) (since 2019)
  • 3rd year Quantum Physics convenor (since 2015)
  • Physics Curriculum Review Committee (2014 – 2015); Honours Review Committee (2017)
  • 3rd year Electrodynamics (2017)
  • 3rd year Nuclear Physics (2010 – 2016)
  • 3rd year Computational Physics (2015)
  • 2nd year Electromagnetism (2009, 2010)
  • Physics 1A (2017)
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Location

Old Main Building G61C (Ground floor)