Nuclear Astrophysics

My research interests are in experimental nuclear astrophysics. I study nuclear reactions that take place in stars, generate the energy that makes them shine, and produce the chemical elements that provide the building blocks of all matter around us. At the core of Nuclear Astrophysics are questions such as: Where do chemical elements come from? Why is there so much more iron than gold in the Universe? How are elements such as carbon and oxygen produced?

My research focuses on the study of both quiescent and explosive stellar evolution. The former involves reactions mainly between stable nuclei that take place 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 a large reduction in muon flux can be achieved. This is done at the LUNA (Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics) facility, located under the Gran Sasso massif in Italy. I have been a member of the LUNA Collaboration since 2010.

Explosive scenarios, on the contrary, are triggered by nuclear reactions between unstable nuclei, which do not normally exist on earth. Thus, experiments can only be performed at Radioactive Ion Beam facilities where such nuclei can be produced and accelerated at the required energies. Beam time at these facilities is obtained through an international competitive process. I am the spokesperson for experiments at TRIUMF, GANIL, and CERN.

Interested in finding out about the latest in the field? Then you may want to visit my Nuclear Astrophysics Magazine.

Ongoing and Planned Experiments

  • LUNA (Italy) The 17O(p,a)14N reaction in Classical Novae
  • CIRCE (Italy) 12C+12C fusion reactions for massive stars
  • CIRCE (Italy) 7Be+p and 7Be+a elastic scattering reactions
  • GANIL (France) Direct measurement of the 14O(a,p)17F reaction
  • TRIUMF (Canada) The 34Ar(a,p)37K reaction in X-ray bursts: time-reversal investigation & resonant elastic scattering

For a more detailed description of some of these projects, visit PhD Projects

PhD students supervision

  • 2013-present: CG Bruno (1st supervisor) Hydrogen burning of 17,18O in AGB, RGB stars and novae
  • 2012-present: L Morales-Gallegos (1st supervisor) The 12C+12C reactions in stars
  • 2010-2014: DA Scott (1st supervisor) Underground study of the 17O(p,g)14N reaction at Gamow energies for classical novae
  • 2009-2012: K Slaughter (2nd supervisor) EdPER
  • 2009-2012: PJC Salter (1st supervisor) Time-reversal measurement of the 18Ne(a,p)21Na reaction cross section for X-ray Bursts
  • 2005-2008: A Josephides (2nd supervisor) Direct investigation of the 18Ne(a,p)21Na reaction at Louvain-la-Neuve

MPhys Students Supervision

  • 2012-2013: C Griffin
  • 2012-2013: M Leary
  • 2010-2011: D Glowa
  • 2009-2010: DA Scott
  • 2004-2005: G Wong

If you are a prospective PhD student, you may also want to visit PhD Projects and Funding Opportunities