Kent State Physics Doctoral Graduate Receives Top Honors from National Laboratory

Prashanth Shanmuganathan is one of only two winners to receive a prestigious award for the most outstanding thesis related to research conducted at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.

Shanmuganathan is a 2016 physics Ph.D. graduate of Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences. His thesis, titled “First Moment of Azimuthal Anisotropy in Au+Au Collisions from the Beam Energy Scan at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider,” was selected by the 2017 Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider & Alternating Gradient Synchrotron Users’ Executive Committee.  He presented his thesis work to 200 scientists at the Annual Users’ Meeting and received an award check for $3,000.

Under the direction of his dissertation advisor, Declan Keane, Ph.D., professor in Kent State’s Department of Physics and Center for Nuclear Research, Shanmuganathan joined the collaborative STAR experiment team in the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility in Brookhaven in 2012.

The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider consists of two circular rings, 3.8 km in circumference, which can accelerate heavy nuclei, such as gold, in two counter-rotating beams to nearly the speed of light and collide to form a new state of matter, called quark-gluon plasma. It mimics the matter that many believe existed in the early universe, a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang, before protons, neutrons, and the nuclei of atoms formed.

At Brookhaven, Shanmuganathan played a key role in two separate instrumentation upgrade projects. His award-winning doctoral project findings unveiled the clearest and sharpest indication to date of a transition effect as the energy of nuclear collisions is scanned across the range that is available for study at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility at Brookhaven.

His most recent project involved a highly-segmented scintillation detector that is read-out via optical fibers and silicon-based sensors. The device, called the Event Plane Detector, will be a key subsystem of the overall STAR detector in a new round of experiments scheduled to take data in 2019 and 2020. 

He developed many skills, including software development, project management, data analysis, research and development, and instrumentation and became an active member in a large collaboration of almost 550 researchers at Brookhaven.

“Thanks to my advisor (Keane), I had this rare opportunity to stay in a national laboratory during my Ph.D. work which allowed me to get involved in many projects other than my main thesis project,” Shanmuganathan said. “We developed a new particle detector for our experiment and tested its performance in other national laboratories.”

Shanmuganathan said he felt honored and accomplished for the hard work at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Kent State.

“The recognition and appreciation keeps me motivated,” he said.

As a native of Sri Lanka leaving his home for the first time, coming to Kent was a big adjustment for Shanmuganathan initially. However, soon after, he grew to love the Kent campus, found the courses and lectures to be interesting, and enjoyed teaching the undergraduate students. He also enjoyed riding his bike on Kent’s cycling trails.     

“I would like to thank the taxpayers of the United States of America for the vast amount of research money that they have devoted,” Shanmuganathan said. “I have tried my best to justify each taxpayer dollar spent in my dissertation analysis.”

Shanmuganathan is currently a post-doctoral research associate at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

About Brookhaven National Laboratory Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy.  The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.  For more information, please visit


Photo Caption: Brookhaven National Laboratory Director Doon Gibbs presented Prashanth Shanmuganathan, a 2016 Kent State Ph.D. graduate, with the Thesis Award during the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider & Alternating Gradient Synchrotron Annual Users’ Meeting at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Brookhaven, New York. Photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Media Contacts: Jim Maxwell,, 330-672-8028 Kristin Anderson,, 330- 672-7907

UPDATED: Thursday, December 08, 2022 10:47 PM
Kristin Anderson