Funding success supports research in nuclear astrophysics and galaxy evolution

Congratulations to Professors Marialuisa Aliotta and Annette Ferguson who have received European Research Council Advanced grants.

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced recipients of its Advanced Grants. These grants are aimed at established, leading principal investigators who are seeking funding to pursue ground-breaking, ambitious projects. The recipients of the grants have a track-record of significant research achievements, and will use the funds to form teams of postdoctoral researchers and PhD students to pursue their research ideas.

Professor Marialuisa Aliotta

Professor Aliotta’s research interests focus on experimental nuclear astrophysics, specifically on the investigation of nuclear reactions that occur in stars and govern their lifetimes and evolution. She is interested in exploring the processes that account for the synthesis of the chemical elements both in quiescent stars like our sun and in explosive scenarios like novae, supernovae, and X-ray bursts.

The grant – NUCLEAR (NUclear CLustering Effects in Astrophysical Reactions) - will be used to tackle three long standing questions in astrophysics: the cosmological lithium problem, nucleosynthesis in first stars, and the electron screening puzzle. Despite appearing to be unrelated, these questions may all be reconciled by the quantum effect of nuclear clustering. By adopting a synergistic approach of experimental, theoretical, and computational effort, Professor Aliotta and her team will break new ground in elucidating the role and strength of nuclear clustering in astrophysical reactions, with far-reaching consequences in nuclear physics, cosmology, and astrophysics.

Professor Aliotta commented:

I am delighted to have been awarded this ERC Grant and very much look forward to collaborating with leading experts Dr Guillaume Hupin (IJCL, France), Dr James deBoer (ND, US), and Dr Marco Pignatari (Konkoly, Hungary) towards tackling some of the most intriguing issues of modern nuclear astrophysics.

Professor Annette Ferguson

Professor Ferguson’s research focuses on understanding how galaxies form and evolve through observational analyses of their structures, kinematics and stellar contents.  Her primary focus is on nearby spiral galaxies which resemble our own Milky Way. 

Her ERC grant will make breakthroughs in understanding how galaxies assemble through conducting in-depth studies of their faint peripheral regions. These remote parts contain a gold mine of information about galaxy formation but have been previously inaccessible due to their extreme faintness.  Leveraging new and forthcoming data from the European Space Agency’s Euclid mission and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory,  Professor Ferguson will assemble a team to search galaxy outskirts for ancient stars and the ghostly remnants of destroyed dwarf galaxies. The findings will be compared to state-of-the-art computer simulations to reveal the missing physics in the current galaxy formation paradigm.