Award recognition for Prof Marialuisa Aliotta

Prof Aliotta receives the Giuseppe Occhialini Medal and Prize in recognition of her work in nuclear astrophysics.

Giuseppe Occhialini Medal and Prize 

The Giuseppe Occhialini Medal and Prize is awarded jointly by the Institute of Physics and the Italian Physical Society for distinguished work by a physicist based in Italy or the UK/Ireland. 

Prof Marialuisa Aliotta received this award for her major contributions to nuclear astrophysics experiments, in particular to the study of key hydrogen-burning reactions relevant to quiescent stellar evolution and nucleosynthesis, in the framework of the international LUNA experiments at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare). 

Investigating the nuclear reactions in stars 

Her research interests focus on experimental nuclear astrophysics, specifically on the investigation of nuclear reactions that occur in stars and govern their lifetime and evolution. These reactions are also responsible for the creation of new chemical elements both in quiescent stars like our sun and in explosive scenarios like novae, supernovae, and X-ray bursts. 

Quiescent stellar evolution involves reactions mainly between stable nuclei at energies well below the Coulomb barrier of the interacting species. Their experimental investigation in a terrestrial laboratory is severely hampered by the background induced by the cosmic rays in the detection devices. Thus, a unique approach consists in carrying out measurements underground, where the background induced by cosmic rays is suppressed by orders of magnitude. Over the last ten years, Marialuisa’s research has been conducted at the world leading Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA) at the INFN Laboratory Nazionali del Gran Sasso (Italy). Prior to joining the LUNA Collaboration in 2010, Prof. Aliotta proposed and performed experiments at Radioactive Ion Beam facilities (TRIUMF, GANIL, CERN) mainly to study (α,p) reactions on unstable nuclei, many of which are crucial to drive explosive scenarios such as X-ray bursts. These measurements are also difficult to perform because of limitations in radioactive ion beam species and intensities. New opportunities are now opening up with the use of storage rings such as CRYRING at GSI (Germany). 

Prof Aliotta commented: 

I’m delighted to have received the Giuseppe Occhialini Medal and Prize for 2021. As it is often the case, awards to individuals are never entirely their own. So, aside from my personal recognition, the prize is also a recognition of the outstanding work of the entire LUNA Collaboration. My heartfelt gratitude goes to all my colleagues at LUNA and in particular to Dr Carlo Bruno and Prof Thomas Davinson for their extraordinary contributions over the years.