Professor Paul Norman BSc MSc PhD

Dr Paul Norman

School of Physics and Astronomy
Professor of Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Energy
Director of the Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research

Contact details

School of Physics and Astronomy
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Paul Norman is a Professor of Nuclear Physics & Nuclear Energy, and Director of the Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education & Research (BCNER). He is course supervisor for the MSc in Physics & Technology of Nuclear Reactors (PTNR) which he has run since the end of 2003, and course supervisor for the MSc in Nuclear Decommissioning & Waste Management (NDAWM) which he has run since 2019.

Professor Norman has experience of both pure nuclear physics and applied nuclear physics work. On the pure nuclear physics side, overlapping with particle physics, he has done work at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), including being one of the contributors to the discovery of the “Quark Gluon Plasma” (QGP) state of matter in 2000. He also worked on the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Lab in the USA and was the first person to find the rare Xi and Omega multi-strange baryons at the RHIC facility there. On the applied nuclear physics side, Professor Norman leads the applied nuclear physics sub-group of nuclear physics. He teaches a wide range of subjects related to nuclear power to both undergraduates and postgraduates, and has publications related to nuclear waste assay, reactor physics, radiation transport (including with relation to reactor materials choices), and nuclear policy (attempting to make new reactor build happen). He has appeared several times on BBC’s “The Politics Show”, as well as on BBC World News, and a variety of other news stations and media articles talking about nuclear power


  • PhD in Particle Physics, on the nuclear/particle physics border, related to finding the “Quark Gluon Plasma” state of compressed and heated nuclear matter
  • MSc in Physics & Technology of Nuclear Reactors (PTNR), with MSc thesis dissertation done in the Hinkley Point B reactor physics group

  • BSc (Hons) in Theoretical Physics, with final year project on the Fractional Quantum Hall effect



Paul Norman qualified with a BSc (Hons) in Theoretical Physics in 1995 from the University of Exeter. He went on to study the MSc in Physics & Technology of Nuclear Reactors at the University of Birmingham (the course that he now runs) and graduated there in 1996. Following this, he stayed on at Birmingham to do a PhD in the nuclear/particle physics area – finishing his PhD in particle physics at the very end of 1999.

At the start of 2000, Dr Norman began his first postdoctoral position within the nuclear physics group at Birmingham, working on the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Lab in the USA. He was the first person to find the rare Xi and Omega particles at Brookhaven’s RHIC facility – the latter of which had in fact been thought impossible to find with the first year's experimental set-up which was being used. At the end of 2000 he took a 3-year postdoc within the Particle physics group at Birmingham, following up on work from his PhD – where his results had been central to the CERN announcement in February 2000 that the Quark Gluon Plasma state of matter (sometimes called the “4th state of matter”) had been observed at CERN, in what was probably the biggest CERN announcement for ~20 years.

At the end of 2003, Dr Norman took a lectureship back in the Nuclear physics group to run the MSc course in Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors. He has since been promoted from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer, then to Reader, and finally to full Professor in 2022. During this time, he has seen by far the largest student intakes on the MSc course ever (in a course which has run since 1956), having graduated over 600 MSc students during his time in post. Professor Norman currently lectures on such topics as Reactor Physics, Reactor Kinetics, Reactor Systems, Neutron Transport, Heat Transfer in Reactor Fuel, and Nuclear Waste. He has supervised PhDs in particle physics, nuclear waste assay, nuclear fusion, reactor modelling, and radiation transport (the latter including applications to both nuclear robotics and towards optimising nuclear materials selection).


MSc lectures every year in:

  • Neutron & Radiation Physics, 7 hours
  • Radiation Transport (mostly introductory Reactor Physics), 12 hours
  • Reactor Kinetics (a course on Reactor Dynamics), 12 hours
  • Reactor Systems I, 7 hours
  • Reactor Systems II, 22 hours
  • Nuclear Waste: forms, classification & encapsulation, 8 hours
  • Nuclear Waste Management & Storage, 8 hours
  • Thermal Hydraulics (first one-third of the ~18 hour lecture course), 6 hours
  • Nuclear Lab (65 hours per year)
  • MSc tutorials (20 hours per year)
  • NTEC lectures and tutorials, roughly a dozen or so hours

Lectured previously, but not currently:

  • Reactor Physics, 22 hours
  • Decommissioning, 7 hours
  • Environmental Impact of Nuclear (mostly accidents lectures), 7 hours

Postgraduate supervision

  • Course supervisor for MSc in Physics & Technology of Nuclear Reactors (PTNR)
  • Course supervisor for MSc in Nuclear Decommissioning & Waste Management (NDAWM)
  • Supervision of research PhDs in nuclear power and other aspects of nuclear
  • Supervision of Masters summer research projects related to nuclear power


Publications in reactor physics, reactor modelling, and radiation transport (including its relevance to nuclear materials).

Publications in nuclear waste assay and other aspects of radioactive waste.

Publications in pure nuclear/particle physics.

Publications around the policy of nuclear power, and making it happen, including a couple of times in “The House” magazine (the magazine of the Houses of Lords and Commons).

Research Themes 

  • Nuclear Power
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Particle Physics
  • Strange Quark Matter
  • Nuclear Fission
  • Nuclear Fusion
  • Nuclear Reactors
  • Nuclear Decommissioning
  • Nuclear Waste

Other activities

Previous or current duties have included:

  • Director of the Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education & Research (BCNER)
  • Chair of the MSc exam board for Birmingham’s nuclear MSc courses
  • External Examiner for the University of Surrey, the Open University, Cranfield (Nuclear Dept HMS Sultan), and the University of the West of England
  • Birmingham rep on the NTEC steering group and leader for units N01 and N31 on NTEC
  • Birmingham rep previously on the European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN)
  • Served as a reviewer for various applications and publications, including nuclear research grant applications for EPSRC and as a reviewer for several books seeking to be published across the field of nuclear
  • Served on a wide variety of groups and committees, including at both national and international level, related to numerous topics such as academic-industry liaison in the field, technology development and innovation, new course creation, and making new nuclear build happen
  • Secretary of the MSc steering group, composed of UK nuclear companies which provide funding, projects, lectures, recruitment and direction/advice to the nuclear MSc courses at Birmingham.