The beginnings at the NINA SRF



Arriving at the NINA Synchrotron Radiation Facility (SRF)

Having been awarded a J R Ashworth Research Scholarship by the University of Manchester for a project to work in the extended group of Prof Frank Read, FRS (who was a reader at the time), I arrived at Manchester airport on an autumn Sunday evening on 29th September 1974. I was met by Ian Munro and taken to his family home where I lived for a whole week. This moving from home to home enabled me to adjust to the change seamlessly. During the first fortnight, Prof Read asked me to meet various sub-groups of the Atomic and Molecular Physics group covering his own interest electron collisions with atoms and molecules”, atomic/molecular physics undertaken at Jodrell Bank and photophysics/photochemistry. Three weeks later, having visited Jodrell Bank observatory and NINA at Daresbury, I was able to tell Prof Read that I was most excited by what I saw at Daresbury and what I had gleaned from Ian Munro’s excitement. Ian became my official supervisor with Scott Hamilton as my additional supervisor. What a lucky combination – the two pioneers who started it all at Daresbury were my supervisors. Given the isolated nature of Daresbury and difficulties of travelling from Manchester, I moved to Daresbury and stayed at the lovely Hinstock Mount for the rest of the time for my PhD.  I was fortunate at the time that the North Beamline at the NINA Synchrotron Radiation Facility (SRF) had some instruments already installed, commissioned and initial results were coming out.

Photo 1. Manchester team in 1976 at the experimental control station. Standing from left to right are Scott Hamilton, Manolis Pantos and Samar Hasnain. Sitting with Ian Munro are Itzhak Steinberger and Paul Brint, a PDRA.

In addition to Ian and Scott, Manolis Pantos and Malcolm Howells were the PDRAs in the Manchester team with a visiting scientist Professor Itzhak Steinberger from Tel Aviv on his sabbatical leave (see photo 1). Manolis’s enthusiasm was infectious and Itzhak was like a ‘child in a toy store’.  Our instrument intercepted the first portion of the beam on the Northern beamline with the other parts shared by the Reading group and others. Malcolm had wonderfully put together our instrument. We were engaged with trapping organic molecules in rare gas matrices and studying their photophysical/photochemical properties.  Anything we touched provided new results. The pioneering spirit was all around both on the North and South beamlines. This small team of enthusiasts (photo 2) with the community were able to put together a case for what became the first dedicated multi-GeV Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS). When the NINA SRF closed with the switching off of NINA at midnight of 31st March 1977, a number of us went away to other SR facilities – Ian Munro to SSRL (Stanford), Malcolm Howells and Gwyn Williams to Brookhaven (New York) and I went to DESY at Hamburg leaving my 3 years PDRA fellowship with the Manchester team that had commenced in October 1976.

Photo 2. A photograph of the NINA SRF team taken a few hours before the final switch off of NINA on 31st March 1977. At the time there were 10 user groups coming from the universities of Manchester, Reading, Oxford, Coleraine, Durham, Bristol, Warwick, Leicester, Edinburgh and MRC Cambridge who successfully put the case with the wider potential users community to build the world’s first dedicated SR source, the SRS.  From left to right: Pat Ridley, Iggy McGovern, Bill Smith, Tony Bourdillon, John West, John Beaumont, John Morton, Ian Munro, Paul Brint, Samar Hasnain, Jeff Worgan, Robert Pettifer, Tom Short, Joan Bordas, Ken Lea and Tony Cox