Mohamed Aouane wins SFN Thesis Prize
13 Oct 2023



MARI Instrument Scientist Mohamed Aouane has been awarded the SFN (the French Neutron Society) thesis prize. The prize is awarded to a doctorate student each year, who used neutron scattering extensively in their thesis.


A man stood in a large room filled with large apparatus.Mo’s thesis, titled: ‘Endofullerenes: Dynamics in Confinement Probed by Neutron Spectroscopy’ used INS (Inelastic Neutron Scattering) to probe endofullerenes, mainly focussing on the 3He@C60, 4He@C60 and CH4@C60 samples. Endofullerenes consist of atoms or small molecules entrapped inside C60 cages. These systems represent a real-life manifestation of the particle in a box system where the encapsulated atom or molecule is confined within the nearly spherical cavity inside C60. 

Using instruments at both ILL (Institut Laue-Langevin) and ISIS, they measured the translational energy levels of both 3He and 4He endofullerenes using direct and indirect geometry spectrometers. From there they compared the experimentally derived PES to one determined from DFT calculations. The validity of the experimentally derived PES was further confirmed by simulations that were in quantitative agreement with the experimental data. The second part of the thesis work focused on the study of CH4@C60, looking at both the quantum translational and rotational energy levels of the confined CH4 molecule. 


The award of this prize by the SFN to Mo’s work is in recognition of the central role played by neutrons in his work. ISIS Molecular Spectroscopy Group Leader, Stewart Parker, who was part of the reviewing team for Mo's thesis explained “Mo’s work has re-defined what is possible with inelastic neutron scattering. It is amazing that he is able to extract so much detailed information from only a few tens of milligrams of sample” 


Mohamed's impact has stretched far beyond his work, as colleagues past and present shared their glowing experiences of working with him. Stéphane Rols was one of Mo’s thesis supervisors at ILL and had this to say about working with him: I had the chance to work closely with him on a daily basis. It was a very enjoyable experience, as Mohamed is not only a very talented young scientist but also a remarkable character with a particularly sharp sense of humour. He became over the years a precious colleague having illuminating ideas during the neutron scattering investigations. I was very happy that Mohamed was offered a position at ISIS. He will undoubtedly bring his own fingerprint to the success of this prestigious institution, while also strengthening the links between the ILL and ISIS.” 


David Voneshen, Excitations Group Leader at ISIS also expressed his delight at the award being given to such a deserving colleague, Having had the privilege of working with Mohamed over the last few months since he finished his thesis, it is wonderful to see his talent and enthusiasm acknowledged at JDN2023. We are excited to have him as part of the ISIS family and look forward to being a part of his undoubtedly bright future. 


And a what bright future it is! With a role at ISIS, Mo is sure to build on the early success of his career so far,we still have plenty of papers to finish and new projects to start!” 


Contact: Fernie, Orla (STFC,RAL,ISIS)