The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Physics Header College of Arts and Sciences

Ken Read

Dr. Ken Read

Professor and UT/ORNL Joint Faculty Member

Experimental Nuclear Physics
Office: 309 Nielsen Physics Building
Phone: 865-974-3027 or 865-574-5347 (ORNL)


Experimental Nuclear Physics: Relativistic Heavy Ion Collisions

My research is primarily concerned with the physics of relativistic heavy ion collisions. This is a new subfield of nuclear physics closely related to high energy physics whose goal is to experimentally create a new state of matter known as the Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP) by colliding gold ions with gold ions at very high energy (100 GeV per nucleon). The research involves experimentally studying quarkonium production and QCD color screening in dense nuclear matter. It is predicted that at sufficiently large energy density the quarks and gluons in the colliding nucleons will undergo a transition to a "deconfined" plasma and then subsequently undergo a "freeze-out" to emerge as conventional hadrons. This study will improve our understanding of QCD, hadronization, and ultimately the nature of the very early universe, which may itself have at one stage been a quark gluon plasma.

We are presently heavily involved in the preparation of a new experiment known as PHENIX which will begin collecting data at the Relativisitic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1999. A key feature of the PHENIX detector is its two large back-to-back muon arms. Muons created during the collision can exit the dense nuclear matter without experiencing the strong force. Thus, they serve as penetrating probes which can "remember" the nature of the early dense phase of the collision. I am the coordinating physicist responsible for construction of the PHENIX muon identifier subsystem. I come to this new field at the border between nuclear and high energy physics with a background in high energy physics and have been involved in experiments at the electron positron storage rings located at Stanford, Cornell, and CERN in Geneva.

I also am involved in an existing heavy ion physics experiment known as E910. This experiment is located at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The goal is to study nuclear stopping power and strangeness production in proton-nucleus collisions.

Experimental Nuclear Physics: Spin Physics

My other main area of experimental research is concerned with understanding the spin structure of the proton and neutron. The goal is to measure the contribution of the spin of sea quarks and the polarization of gluons to the total nucleon spin and to explain the deviation of experimental data from the Ellis-Jaffe sum rule. Polarized proton-proton collisions with center of mass energies from 50 to 500 GeV are to be analyzed by PHENIX to measure the helicity distribution of quarks and anti-quarks in the nucleon and gluon polarization. This information is probed by studying the polarized Drell-Yan process, vector boson production, polarized gluon fusion, and polarized gluon Compton scattering.


Dr. Read teaches Physics 573 (Numberical Methods in Physics)/Physics 643 (Computational Physics) for graduate students. Now available at the 600-level with the opportunity for semester-long projects on TITAN, the #1 open science supercomputer in the world and the first to incorporate hardware acceleration (GPUs). Practical, hands-on, computational solutions to a broad range of modern physics applications. State-of-the-art technical approaches and high-performance computing.

Brief Vita

Dr. Kenneth F. Read earned a B.S. in physics with honors from Stanford University in 1981, an M.S. from Cornell University in 1984, and a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1987. He was a postdoctoral research associate and then a research staff member for Princeton University. In 1991 he joined the faculty at the University of Tennessee as an Assistant Professor and also became a research staff member at Oak Ridge National Lab. He holds a joint appointment as a UT/ORNL faculty member. His awards include a National Merit Scholarship, the Stanford David Levine Award in physics, an NSF graduate fellowship, the Cornell University Andrew D. White fellowship, Phi Beta Kappa, full membership in Sigma Xi, and listing in the 1996-7 edition of Who's Who in Science and Engineering. He is a co-author of over 100 experimental research papers. He is the coordinating physicist responsible for the muon identifier subsystem of the PHENIX detector under construction at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Selected Recent Publications


The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Big Orange. Big Ideas.

Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System