My research is focused on understanding the properties of atomic nuclei with a large excess of neutrons. These nuclei have a strong impact on stellar nucleosynthesis in the so called r-process. Today we believe that about half of the elements on earth heavier than iron are formed in this rare astrophysical scenario, whose astrophysical site is still under debate.
Nuclei with a “magic” number of protons or neutrons (i.e. nuclei with a closed shell configuration) have a strong impact on the r-process flow. Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict the evolution of shell structure far from stability, and experimental data are needed to guide our theoretical understanding.
My recent and current research activities include:
- Experiments at the ISOLDE facility at CERN, where neutron-rich nuclei can be produced and studied, directly. We detect gamma arrays and charged particles with state of the art Germanium and silicon detectors. This allowed us to probe nuclei at or near the r-process, in detail.
- The first measurement of nuclear fission barriers in neutron-rich nuclei at the RIKEN Nishina Center in Japan. Such data have a direct impact on the termination of the r-process and its re-cycling. We are currently testing our newly developed silicon tracker array which will allow to perform these challenging measurements in the future.
- In the future my work will also involve research at the ISAC facility at TRIUMF, which offers unique possibilities for studying exotic nuclei using the TIGRESS and GRIFFIN germanium detectors. We are currently working on the development of a new type of particle tracking detector, utilizing ultra-thin silicon wavers and ASIC chips to boost experiments at the future ARIEL facility at TRIUMF.
I am also interested in applications of physics in medicine. In conventional cancer radiation treatment, electrons and photons are used to irradiate tumor cells for various malignant diseases. Electrons and photons lose energy slowly and mainly exponentially as they penetrate tissue, making it difficult to reach an ideal dose profile in treatment planning. Charged particles instead release more energy at the end of their range in the so called \"Bragg peak\". This results in reduced damage of surrounding healthy tissue and allows e.g. treatment of tumours close to risk organs. For this it is most important to precisely control the dose distribution in the patient. I study new experimental techniques to monitor the location of the beam in the patient and its dose distribution \"online\" (i.e. during the treatment).