PhD Projects

If you are a prospective PhD student and are interested in doing research in Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics, the information below gives you an idea of possible projects, together with Funding Opportunities. Available projects may vary with time, so please get in touch if you are interested and want to find out more.

Currently Available Projects

  • LUNA (Italy): Various nuclear reactions between stable beams at low energies
  • CIRCE (Italy): Low energy scattering of 7Be beams off Hydrogen and Helium targets
  • CIRCE (Italy): Carbon fusion reactions for massive stars
  • GANIL (France): Direct measurement of the 14O(a,p)17F reaction
  • TRIUMF (Canada): Time reversal studies of nuclear reactions with unstable beams

Stable Beam Experiments

Non-explosive stellar evolution is governed by thermonuclear reactions between (mostly) stable nuclei. As these reactions proceed by quantum tunnelling, their experimental investigation in terrestrial laboratories is severely hampered by extremely low cross section. Often, the only possibility to measure such cross sections directly at the energies of astrophysical interest rests in carrying out measurements underground.

  • LUNA (Laboratory Underground for Nuclear Astrophysics), under the Gran Sasso massif in Italy, is currently the only facility in the world where these measurements can be made. Projects are available for students working in this fascinating field. You will have the opportunity to be involved in all the stages of the experiment, from targets preparation, to operating the particle accelerator, to setting up detectors, collecting and analysing data and interpreting the results.
  • CIRCE (Centre for Isotopic Research on the Cultural and Environmental heritage), at the Seconda University’ di Napoli in Caserta (Italy), is a university based laboratory equipped with a 3MV tandem for AMS studies. The laboratory is also host to the European Recoil for Nuclear Astrophysics (ERNA). As part of a collaboration with colleagues at CIRCE, we have initiated studies of the carbon fusion reactions in stars using seed funding provided by the Royal Society. As part of this collaboration we plan to investigate elastic scattering of 7Be on H and He. Both processes are relevant to nuclear astrophysics. Get in touch to find out more.

Radioactive Beam Experiments

Nuclear reactions that take place in explosive stellar scenarios often involve unstable nuclei. Studying the reactions in the laboratory is especially challenging as the relevant unstable nuclei must first be produced before being accelerated to the required energies. Only a few laboratory exist worldwide for the production of Radioactive Ion Beams.

  • Direct Study of the 14O(a,p)17F Astrophysical Reaction 

The 14O(a,p)17F reaction is one of the most important reaction for explosive hydrogen burning in stars as it governs the conditions for a breakout from the Hot-CNO cycle, leading to the synthesis of elements up to the Sn region. Despite various direct and indirect attempts at measuring the cross section for this reaction, considerable discrepancy still exists between different data sets. The project will involve the direct investigation of this reaction cross-section and will be carried out at the GANIL facility in France.

The student will be expected to play a key role in the planning of the experiment, its setup and running and the subsequent data analysis. Familiarity with experimental techniques in Nuclear Physics as well as in Fortran programming language is desirable. 

  • Time-reversal investigation of the 34Ar(a,p)37K reaction for X-ray bursts

The 34Ar(a,p)37K reaction has been identified as a key waiting point in the reaction path that leads to thermonuclear X-ray bursts on the surface of a neutron star. The reaction has never been measured directly because no 34Ar beam is presently available (34Ar is an unstable nucleus with a 0.844 s half life). However, a time reversal study, i.e. investigating the 37K(p,a)34Ar and inferring the cross section for the direct reaction by means of the reciprocity theorem, is now feasible thanks to the availability of a 37K beam. The project will be carried out at overseas facilities (either TRIUMF, Vancouver or Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas).

The student will be expected to play a key role in the planning of the experiment, its setup and running and the subsequent data analysis. Familiarity with experimental techniques in Nuclear Physics as well as in Fortran programming language is desirable. 


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