DOE Physicists at Work - Winston Roberts
DOE Physicists at Work
Profiles of representative DOE-sponsored physicists
doing research at universities and national laboratories
Compiled by the Office of Scientific and Technical Information
What holds a nucleus together? That question, asked by his high school chemistry teacher, inspired a young Winston Roberts to an eventual career in physics as a full professor at Old Dominion University and a member of the Theory Group at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Laboratory (JLab).
"My late high school chemistry teacher, E. Norman Lambert, is the one who got me interested in this kind of question," said Dr. Roberts, who was born in Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad. While attending high school at the Queen's Royal College, one of the island's most renowned high schools, Dr. Roberts decided to major in physics for his undergraduate studies, which were pursued at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. This was made possible through a scholarship from the government of Trinidad and Tobago. "The scholarship was a wonderful opportunity, as I would never have been able to afford this," said Dr. Roberts.
In his graduating year at Dalhousie, Dr. Roberts received the University Medal for finishing atop the physics graduating class, along with the Governor General's Gold Medal. He then went to Guelph, Ontario, about 90 minutes from Toronto, for his Ph. D. His first year at Guelph was spent at Oxford University. Dr. Roberts completed his Ph. D. in 1988 with Dr. Gabriel Karl, then spent one year as a research associate in Grenoble, France, followed by about 18 months at Harvard University. "By this time, I was a permanent resident of Canada, and had received an NSERC Fellowship that would allow me to conduct research anywhere in the world," said Dr. Roberts. Since his appointment at Old Dominion University, he has also been awarded a "National Young Investigator" award by the National Science Foundation. "That award allowed me a lot of independence, as I could design my research program as I thought appropriate," said Dr. Roberts.
Dr. Roberts' research focuses on what is known as "hadronic physics" and, not surprisingly, is related to the heart of that question asked so many years ago in Trinidad - the nucleus.
"Basically, I'm trying to understand the way in which quarks make up the proton and neutron, and all of their relatives, and how these particles behave," said Dr. Roberts. "Some of my projects are directly related to the mission of JLab and the DOE, such as calculations for processes that will be measured there. DOE's Office of Nuclear Physics provides support for "the community of scientists who seek to understand the fundamental forces and particles of nature as manifested in nuclear matter.
"So has the question that brought Dr. Roberts into his field of research - What holds a nucleus together? - been answered?
"We now have a good idea of what holds the nucleus together, but there are many details we're still trying to understand. In my current research, I am looking at things one layer deeper, exploring how the proton and neutron (the particles that make up all the matter that most of us ever 'see') are made out of quarks," said Dr. Roberts.
Dr. Roberts currently receives funding from the DOE through his position at JLab, and he understands funding questions from the point of view of the funding agencies as well. He has served as a program officer at the National Science Foundation and is currently on leave in the Office of Nuclear Physics at the Department of Energy, helping to make funding decisions in nuclear theory.
In addition to his scientific and administrative endeavors, Dr. Roberts is an avid woodworker, with a preference for working with exotic woods. Some of his creations can be seen on his website at http://www.knottyprofessor.com/ .
Dr. Roberts articles accessed via OSTI: