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  • richardmitnick 1:59 pm on October 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Eliane Epple, , , , Women in STEM   

    From ALICE at CERN: Women in STEM – “Focus on Eliane Epple” 

    CERN New Masthead

    16 October 2017
    Virginia Greco

    Eliane Epple
    A postdoctoral researcher at Yale University, Eliane is working on an analysis involving hard scattering events that produce direct photons and has recently done her first shift as Run Manager for ALICE.

    When she started studying physics in Stuttgart, her hometown, Eliane Epple was already passionate about particle physics. But since it was not possible to specialize in this field at her university, after two years she moved to Munich and attended the Technical University Munich (TUM). Here, she followed courses for two more years before joining a research project led by Prof. Laura Fabbietti, who had just received a big grant and was starting her research group. The subject of Eliane’s Diploma thesis was the study of the interactions of kaons – and other particles containing strange quarks – with nuclear matter (protons and neutrons). More in detail, for her Diploma she analyzed the decay products of a resonance called Λ(1405), which is by some theories treated as a molecular bound state of an anti-kaon and a nucleon. Its is in this sense a pre-stage of a kaonic nuclear cluster that she later studied during her PhD, still working with Prof. Fabbietti.

    In particular, Eliane and colleagues were investigating the possible existence of anti-kaonic bound-states formed by, for example, two nucleons and one anti-kaon.­ Besides Fabbietti’s team, other groups all over the world were working on this topic, since a number of theoretical physicists had hypothesized that the attraction between nucleons and anti-kaons should be strong enough to give rise to this bound state, at least for a short time. “I analyzed data from the High Acceptance Di-Electron Spectrometer (HADES) at GSI.


    In particular, I looked for particles produced in p+p collisions that could originate bfrom the decay of this anti-kaon-nucleon bound state,” explains Eliane. “It was a very controversial topic at the time, because there were groups that, analyzing a certain set of data, could see a signal compatible with the detection of such bound state, while others couldn’t. I didn’t find any signal proving this hypothesis, but at the same time my results set un upper limit for the existence of this bound state at the beam energy of 3.5 GeV.”

    “In order to set a limit,” Eliane continues, “you compare the result of your data analysis with the outcome of a simulation, performed assuming the hypothesis that the signal you are looking for but didn’t see exists. In other words, you develop a model for this case and study how much signal you can introduce and still keep consistency with your data. You proceed to add more and more signal strength to your model in little steps, until you reach a threshold: if you overcome it, the model doesn’t fit anymore with the data. This threshold is an upper limit.”

    She also combined her results with data from other experiments and showed that it was very unlikely that the signal seen by some other groups could be due to an anti-kaon-nucleon bound state. “Actually, I think that this signal exists because there are many compelling reasons from our theory colleagues, but it is very challenging to see, first of all because the production cross section of this state is probably very small, which means that it occurs rarely, so we need to take a lot of data. In addition, it might be a very broad state, so we are not going to find a narrow peak. As a consequence, understanding the background well is essential.”

    When she completed her PhD in 2014, she decided to change field. “In that situation, you have two possible choices,” explains Eliane, “either you stay on the same topic and become an expert in a very specific field, or you change and broaden your horizon. In this second case, you do not become a specialist of one topic but rather increase your ‘portfolio’. I preferred to go for this second option and do something completely new. This way is much harder because you basically start from the beginning but I think it benefits a researcher in the long term to look at a field, in this case QCD, from many perspectives. I thus also encourage some young researchers to give low energy QCD research a chance and see what people do beyond the TeV scale.” Therefore, she joined the research group led by John Harris and Helen Caines at Yale University, in New Haven (US), where she has been working for two and a half years now, and entered the ALICE collaboration.

    Her present research activities focus on hard probes in high-energy collisions. “The proton is a very fascinating object, there is a lot going on in it,” Eliane comments. “When you scatter two protons at low energy (an energy range where I have previously been working on), you see how the ‘entire’ proton behaves, you are not able to distinguish its internal structure. On the contrary, at the high energies of LHC, when you collide two protons you start seeing what happens inside, you can observe how partons collide with each other.”

    In these hard scattering events, particles with a high transverse momentum are present in the final state. Eliane is analyzing Pb-Pb events in which a parton and a photon (a gamma) are produced. Photons do not interact with strongly-interacting matter, hence, when the Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP) is created in ALICE by smashing lead nuclei, a photon produced in the collision can traverse this medium and get out unaffected. In the opposite direction, a parton moves away from the collision vertex and fragments into a particle shower. The sum of the momenta of the particles in this shower have to balance the momentum of the photon (combining these fragments with the gamma on the other side is called gamma-hadron correlation), and altogether they carry the total momentum of the mother parton.

    The objective of this research is measuring the fragmentation function, which describes the correlation between the momentum of the mother and those of each particle in the shower. Normally, most of the daughter particles carry a small fraction (less than 20%*) of the momentum of the mother, whereas very few of them have a high fraction of this momentum. “By studying the behaviour of the particle shower in Pb-Pb collisions, in comparison with pp and p-Pb collisions, we can understand how the QGP medium modifies it,” explains Eliane. “We may have, for example, fewer of these very high momentum fragments and therefore more of the low momentum ones, or the shower might be broader. This study gives information about the properties of the medium that is created.”

    There are measurements of gamma-hadron correlations performed in PHENIX,


    at 200 GeV which show that in gold-gold collisions the fragmentation function changes, giving fewer particles with high momentum fractions and many more particles having a low momentum fraction. ALICE is investigating what happens at higher energies.

    Eliane is now working in collaboration with a graduate student at her institute and other colleagues in Berkeley. “We are performing a very complex analysis. In our events, we have to identify gammas on one side and the hadron showers on the other. But gammas can also be decay products of other particles, such as pions and other mesons. Thus, it is important to avoid this background signal and take into consideration only events in which the gamma is produced in the primary vertex. This is not easy and requires a number of following steps.”

    Eliane will continue working at Yale for some time. Then, she will either look for another post-doctoral position in ALICE or will directly apply for some grants, most likely in Europe. “There are various opportunities in Germany to get research funding to start your own research group.”

    Even though she likes her present topic of analysis, in the future she might change for something more basic: the substructure and dynamic of the proton. “The proton is a very complex and fascinating object in its own right, we still do not know much about its internal dynamics,” she highlights. In any case, the most important thing for her is to settle on a research topic that will give her deeper insight into QCD properties — something she is very intrigued by.

    In addition to doing data analysis, Eliane coordinates the activities of the EMCal calibration group and EMCal photon object group and, lately, has been Run Manager for the data taking. With so much work and a four-year-old daughter, there is not much time left. Nevertheless, when she can, she attends classes of modern dance to de-stress and relax.

    See the full article here .

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    Meet CERN in a variety of places:

    Cern Courier

    CERN/ATLAS detector


    CERN/CMS Detector




    CERN/LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    Quantum Diaries

  • richardmitnick 8:26 am on October 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Rosalba Bonnacorsi, , Underground Laboratories for Dark Matter Research, Women in STEM   

    From SETI Institute: Women in STEM -“Catch Up with SETI Institute Scientist Rosalba Bonnacorsi on her NASA Spaceward Bound Expedition to the Center of the Earth (Almost!) 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute

    SETI Institute Astrobiology Scientist Rosalba Bonnacorsi

    October 16, 2017

    For two weeks in October, from the 8th-20th, SETI Institute scientist Rosalba Bonnacorsi will be part of the expedition team when NASA Spaceward Bound and the U.K. Centre for Astrobiology conduct a planetary analog expedition in the Boulby Mine. Boulby is the site of the astrobiology analog research with the Mine Analog Research Program (MINAR)

    The Boulby International Subsurface Astrobiology Laboratory (BISAL) is hosted by the Boulby Mine complex north of Whitby, Yorkshire, on the North East coast of England (UK).

    The Boulby Mine is a 1.1 km-deep active potash mine at the core of a 250-million-year-old, massive sequence of NaCl, KCl, and sulfates salts. The salts were formed by the evaporation of an ancient ocean – the Zechstein Sea — which covered most of present day Western Europe during the Permian geologic period. The facility comprises over 1,000 km of underground roadways through the salt deposits. BISAL is a fully air conditioned, internet connected to the surface (100 Mbps) laboratory, with an outside ‘Mars yard’ for testing rover and instrument technology. The facility is also used for studies of astrophysics – the Underground Laboratories for Dark Matter Research, and low-background radiation and other deep underground science.

    The expedition is made up of an international team of scientists, teachers, engineers, biologists, geologists and astronauts. Scientists and educators from NASA and the SETI Institute will work on a variety of science and technology projects which will address some specific scientific questions and test a variety of potential technologies and planetary exploration protocols in the mine:

    Scientific Questions:

    Does ancient salt preserve viable organisms?
    What biosignatures of life are preserved in deep salts?
    What types of organisms inhabit deep brines?
    What are the environmental conditions that support life in salt?
    What is the composition and structure of evaporite deposits?
    Where does the deep subsurface gas comes from? Is this from biology or from geology?
    How we can apply what we learn in MINAR5 to the search for past and present life on other planets?


    Life detection technology
    Clean sampling technologies
    Autonomous drones and rover technology for deep subsurface exploration and mapping on the Moon and Mars
    Gas detection technology
    Communication protocols with the surface to simulate cave and lava tube exploration on the Moon and Mars

    Entrance to the mine (Image Credit: Boulby Mine)

    The team will explore and study a variety of ancient salt structures and briny environments. The primary objectives are to detect evidence of ancient and modern life inside the salt and to monitor the associated underground microclimate (temperature and rH). They will scout Boulby’s underworld, and test for the most efficient protocols for accepting sampling as well as in situ and laboratory analysis of collected samples. Furthermore, they will conduct technology/robotic experiments to simulate drilling missions in space conducted by Astronauts.

    Spaceward Bound is an educational program and will use the lab and mine environment to carry out science and technology in support of the subsurface exploration of the Moon and Mars, and Ocean Worlds. Exploration, hand-on activities and classroom work will be conducted during the day. A typical day will involve a 101 introductory lectures-lab, safety training sessions, and morning/evening group meetings to plan together the next day science objectives and tasks, as well as discuss on what we have learned during the day.

    Rosalba has worked as an Astrobiologist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute since 2008 and with scientists at NASA Ames Research Center since 2005. She enjoys doing science to advance our understanding of the universe and spends much of her spare time raising public awareness about planetary analog research taking place on Earth, including associated space missions to the Solar System (such as the Mars Science Lab 2020) and those planned to reach potential life in ocean worlds (e.g., Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus). Rosalba’s goal is to gain a broad picture of where life and its signatures are most successfully distributed, concentrated, preserved, and detected. This knowledge helps us to understand how to search for life beyond Earth.

    The SETI Institute is proud to collaborate and support the NASA Spaceward Bound Expedition to Boulby Mine, this October.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:34 pm on October 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , GROWTH, Mansi Kasliwal (PhD '11), Women in STEM   

    From Caltech: Women in STEM – “Star Sleuth: Mansi Kasliwal (PhD ’11)” 

    Caltech Logo


    Fall 2017, Features
    A Caltech astronomer combs the night sky for clues about the fates of stars.

    Mansi Kasliwal. Photo: Mario de Lopez

    Mansi Kasliwal, an assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech, searches the night sky for astronomical transients—the flashes of light that appear when a star becomes a million to a billion times as bright as our sun and then quickly fades away. As principal investigator of GROWTH (Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen), she heads up a worldwide network of collaborators who are trying to capture the details of these transient events to find out more about how they evolved.

    Kasliwal grew up in Indore, India, and came to the United States to study at the age of 15. She earned her BS at Cornell University and then came to Caltech to complete her doctoral work in astronomy. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Pasadena’s Carnegie Observatories, she joined the Caltech faculty in 2015.

    We talked with Kasliwal about her fascination with the night sky, why she doesn’t mind 3 a.m. phone calls, and the dream she hopes will take her to the South Pole.

    Caltech Magazine: What is the main focus of your research?

    Mansi Kasliwal: It’s basically about discovering and understanding transients—the energetic flashes of light that cause the fireworks that adorn the night sky—and what they can tell us about the elements and where they are synthesized, the fates of stars, and what happens in the final stages of their lives.

    There are two main themes to my research: One has to do with optical transients, or transients that can be seen with optical telescopes—that’s where GROWTH comes in—and the other is around infrared transients and exploring the dynamic infrared sky.

    CM: Let’s start with GROWTH.

    MK: I’ve done optical astronomy for my entire career here. GROWTH builds off of that. GROWTH is primarily looking at optical transients from a host of different observatories to build a more complete picture of the physical processes of their evolution. We have a network of 18 observatories in the Northern Hemisphere. As Earth rotates and daylight creeps in at one of our locations, we switch observations to one of our facilities westward that is still enjoying nighttime.

    CM: How do you communicate with one another when one of the observatories sees an intriguing transient in the night sky?

    MK: Some alerts are fully robotic, i.e., my computer calls me. Some alerts are from my collaborators on the other side of the globe. The best part about GROWTH is that even if a phone call is at 3 a.m., everyone’s sleepy voices are actually quite excited.

    CM: A new system of telescopes is coming online at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in Southern California called the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). What makes it better than the Palomar Transient Factory that was there before?

    Caltech Palomar Observatory, located in San Diego County, California, US, at 1,712 m (5,617 ft)

    MK: ZTF is an order of magnitude faster in survey speed, so we can either search more sky or we can search the sky faster or we can go deeper. This will help us find many more rare, fast, and young transients. ZTF is a fantastic new discovery engine providing targets for the GROWTH network.

    CM: I know GROWTH is looking for baby supernovas, among other things. Why is that important?

    MK: Supernovas shine for months. But what happens in the first 24 hours after explosion, when the supernova is in its infancy, is critical. The initial flash of light immediately interacts with the surrounding material and tells us what that pristine material was before the supernova exploded. Then, there’s a 10,000-kilometers-per-second blast wave that sweeps it all up. When we study the ultraviolet light and the spectroscopic signatures with the GROWTH network, within the first 24 hours, we can get a glimpse into what type of star exploded.

    CM: You’re also searching for what you call the “cosmic mines,” the heavy elements in the periodic table, which come from extreme gravitational events. Tell me how you work with Advanced LIGO [the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory] on this?

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    MK: As soon as the LIGO researchers think they have detected a gravitational wave, they tell me roughly which part of the sky it’s in, and we drop everything we’re doing and go and search this large area of the sky for any flashes of light that could be physically associated with that signal.

    What we’re hoping for is at least one neutron star in the merger that LIGO saw. If a neutron star smashes into a black hole or into another neutron star, then there will be light. A neutron star can feed the formation of these very heavy elements, like gold, platinum, and uranium. When these elements decay radioactively, that gives you photons.

    In 2002, a star called V838 Mon became the brightest star in the Milky Way. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, reveals the so called light echo—the flash of light reflected from layers of dust surrounding the star. Photo: NASA, ESA

    So when we get notification of a new gravitational-wave signal, we search the sky for flashes and rack our brains about which ones are completely unrelated, which ones are in the foreground, which ones are in the background, and which one—just one, if any, out of all of them—is the real thing. It is a very complicated process of sifting through a large volume of data in a very short timescale, because we only have 24 hours before the flash, if there is one, fades away.

    So far, every time we’ve done this, it turned out to be two black holes that were merging, and we found nothing because black holes are very black. They generally don’t produce the electromagnetic light we are looking for. But it’s all good preparation for when LIGO finds something with one or two neutron stars.

    This work with LIGO ties together my two loves in my professional life, the optical and the infrared, because the signal that is expected from such a violent merger—one that should produce all these sparkling, heavy elements—has two components. One is a fast-fading optical blue component, which is what the GROWTH network is designed to pick up, and the other is a more slowly evolving infrared component. Unfortunately, no one has a wide-field infrared telescope yet.

    CM: So exploring the infrared night sky is the new area you’re developing now?

    MK: Yes, this is the new project that I’m doing, which is something that just didn’t even exist as a field a few years ago because the infrared is a very hard waveband to probe. The night sky is very bright, and detectors are very expensive. There are a lot of practical reasons astronomers have shied away from exploring the dynamic infrared night sky.

    But just in the last few years, we’ve made some progress. I’m doing a project called SPIRITS. This is the SPitzer InfraRed Intensive Transients Survey. It’s a large program of the Spitzer Space Telescope.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    An artist’s impression of a white dwarf “stealing” matter from a companion star. Photo: David A. Hardy

    We are looking at 200 galaxies over and over again to see if there are any new flashes of light in the infrared wave-bands. The cool thing here—quite literally cool—is that the search found a class of transients that were so cold they were completely missed in optical and other wave-bands. We think that some of these could be the result of the mergers of two stars, or they could be the birth of massive star binaries in which you have a shock that gets driven out. That shock excites the surrounding medium in the infrared wavebands and lights it up. We don’t know what those transients are, so we just gave them a name. The project was SPIRITS, so we call them SPRITEs.

    Now I’m taking this to the next level. At Palomar Observatory, I’m putting together a 25-square-degree infrared camera that will be able to cover the entire night sky in one night. I hope to commission it in November. If that goes well, and I’m able to prove the technology there, then I want to go to the cold and dark South Pole to do a really nice systematic search of the night sky for infrared transients.

    CM: What is it like being back at Caltech as a professor when you were here as a doctoral student just a few years ago?

    MK: Caltech is certainly a dream job for me, and it was sort of like coming back home. Caltech has the kind of students that I know are all awesome. The grad students at Caltech were my friends, and I’ve seen what they can do. So I knew that, being a faculty member, I would have the privilege of working with students who are not only brilliant but also have an amazing attitude.

    CM: Are you down at Palomar Observatory frequently?

    MK: Yes, and I’m always excited about working with Caltech’s Palomar and Keck observatories.

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    I know the telescopes well, what to do with them. Also, I’ve known the engineers and the staff there for many years, and I’ve had a really great relationship with them. It’s really fun to work with the staff. They’re very dedicated. They revel in the joy of discovery.

    CM: You’ve been in the U.S. now for longer than you lived in India. Do you get back there regularly?

    MK: My parents live in India, so we go back once a year. Also, I have two GROWTH co-investigators in India. In fact, one is a Caltech alum who is now a faculty member at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. His students come here for internships; I send students to him for internships. This is wonderful in terms of the collaboration.
    Bringing astronomy at the cutting edge to India, with this privileged access and opportunity I have here at Caltech, to share that with my colleagues in India … it’s really fun.

    CM: And last, but certainly not least, you also have a young child.

    MK: I have a two-year-old son. His name is Vyom. That means “the universe” in Sanskrit. I have a little baby universe who is the joy of my life.

    See the full article here .

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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”

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  • richardmitnick 1:46 pm on October 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Anandi Krishnan, , , , Women in STEM   

    From Stanford Scope blog: Women in STEM – Anandi Krishnan “How a NIH re-entry grant helped this researcher return to the lab” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University


    Stanford Scope blog

    October 12, 2017
    Michelle Brandt

    How did a National Institutes of Health grant help a Stanford bioengineer get back into research after a break? In a recent story in Inside Stanford Medicine, my colleague Kris Newby tells the story of Anandi Krishnan, PhD:

    Anandi Krishnan, PhD. Kris Newby.

    ” In 2011, Krishnan was on the fast track to a promising academic research career.


    Oct 3 2017
    By Kris Newby

    While she feared that the extended leave might end her research career, she was awarded a National Institutes of Health career re-entry grant in 2016 that enabled her to move from a staff position at Stanford back into research.

    After she returned from her family leave in 2012, Krishnan and her husband, a postdoctoral scholar, faced the difficulty of landing jobs at the same university. Faculty research positions are scarce, and the competition for NIH grants is fierce. To increase their odds of success, the couple decided to relocate to the job-rich San Francisco Bay Area. Krishnan took a staff position in 2012 as the academic and research program officer at Spectrum, the Stanford Center for Clinical and Translational Research and Education, and the family moved to Palo Alto.

    Krishnan said she enjoyed her role at Stanford in educating young scholars on clinical and translational research. But over time, she found herself missing hands-on research. Then, through Spectrum, she heard about a new career re-entry program funded by the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program. She applied in 2016, and six months later, she had the funding to start again.

    Called a “re-entry supplement,” the program funds the salary of investigators whose careers have been interrupted for one to eight years for unavoidable reasons. Examples of qualifying interruptions could include child-rearing, an incapacitating personal or family illness, a spouse relocation or military service.

    “It was like the grant had been written specifically for my situation,” Krishnan said.

    To apply, Krishnan first had to identify a mentor and lab space. Then she had to write a short research plan, draft a mentoring and career-development plan, and obtain letters of support. Stanford faculty and staff rallied to help.

    James Zehnder, MD, professor of pathology and of medicine, agreed to be her mentor. When awarded the re-entry grant, the Pathology Department offered her an instructor position.

    Krishnan decided to focus her current research on looking for blood platelet gene markers in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms, or MPNs, which are blood cancers that cause too many white or red blood cells or platelets to be produced in the body. Such markers could be used to diagnose and assess treatments in MPN patients.

    Thrilled to do research again

    “Platelets are understudied when it comes to blood cancers,” said Krishnan. “They aren’t simply sacks of glue that stop bleeding.”

    Jason Gotlib, MD, professor of hematology, is advising her on her research and providing her with staff support for access to his MPN patient data registry.

    Krishnan said she is thrilled to be back doing research, and is busy working in her new lab and expanding her bioinformatics skills. As she finishes her first year since receiving the re-entry grant, she’s putting the finishing touches on a new research paper and using her preliminary data to apply for more research grants. (She was recently awarded a research grant from the Pathology Department.)

    “I am thankful to the various Stanford faculty and staff who helped me secure this unique opportunity and look forward to guiding the careers of others who might be navigating similar life-related interruptions,” Krishnan said.


    Missing research

    A research fellow at Duke University, she had earned a PhD in bioengineering from Penn State in less than four years and was the lead author of 11 scientific papers. But a complicated pregnancy, an illness in her family and time off to care for her newborn child derailed her plans.

    She applied in 2016, and six months later, she had the funding to start again.

    Called a ‘re-entry supplement,’ the program funds the salary of investigators whose careers have been interrupted for one to eight years for unavoidable reasons. Examples of qualifying interruptions could include child-rearing, an incapacitating personal or family illness, a spouse relocation or military service.

    ‘It was like the grant had been written specifically for my situation,’ Krishnan said.”

    After a break and a cross-country move, Krishnan took a staff position at Stanford — but, she said, she found herself missing lab work. Then she heard about a new career re-entry program funded by the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program.

    As Newby outlines in her piece, Krishnan is now back in action and working in the lab of James Zehnder, MD, where she studies blood platelet gene markers in patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms.

    See the full article here .

    See the post by Kris Newby here.

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  • richardmitnick 8:24 pm on October 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new ultrafast optical technique for thermal measurements—time-domain thermoreflectance, , Chengyun Hua, , , , Women in STEM   

    From ORNL: Women in STEM – “Laser-Focused: Chengyun Hua turns the heat up on materials research” 


    Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    October 13, 2017
    Bill Cabage

    Chengyun Hua applied for a Liane B. Russell Distinguished Early Career Fellowship after meeting ORNL researchers at a Society of Women Engineers conference.

    In Chengyun Hua’s research, everything revolves around heat and how it moves. As a Russell Fellow at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Hua carefully analyzes nanoscale heat transfer mechanisms using laser spectroscopy.

    “Heat is being generated from everywhere and we can collect that heat and convert it to energy,” she explained. “We essentially have enough heat being produced 24/7 through electronics and other sources that we could potentially impact the world’s energy production and ease today’s energy concerns.”

    Although heat has the potential to generate enough energy to power the universe, if not channeled properly, it can also become problematic.

    “We’ve seen recent news of cell phones bursting into flames,” Hua said. “The reason is too much heat is produced locally, and it has nowhere to go in a short period of time. The challenge is to capture that heat flow at the nanoscale and understand how we can more effectively dissipate it.”

    Through Hua’s work in ORNL’s Building Equipment Research group, a new ultrafast optical technique for thermal measurements—time-domain thermoreflectance—was deployed at ORNL for the first time. The technique measures the thermal properties of materials, including thermal conductivity. Using ORNL’s Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory, Hua measures material conductivity down to the nanometer.

    “When a material is heated using a pulsed laser, thermal stress is induced,” she explained. “The objective of raising the temperature of a material is to unveil the microscopic processes of the phonons [a type of elementary particle that plays an important role in many of the physical properties of solids, such as the thermal conductivity and the electrical conductivity] that govern the heat transport in solids. Ultimately, with this better understanding, we can design the next generation of materials—materials that not only withstand heat but also manage the heat and convert it into energy.”

    For the love of physics

    Hua grew up a world away in Shanghai, China. An only child of accountant parents, she excelled in mathematics and science, something that was not unusual in her home country.

    “It’s easy to get a job in the engineering discipline in China; it’s a highly respected profession,” she said. For Hua, however, getting accepted to study engineering physics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, was an opportunity not to be missed.

    “Studying in Michigan was the first time I had ever been to the United States,” she said. “But it wasn’t until I entered the mechanical engineering program at Cal Tech that I truly felt at home.”

    Hua completed her PhD in mechanical engineering at the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena. There she met an advisor and professor who helped steer her current career path, challenging her to continue focusing on nanoscale heat transfer properties. “Cal Tech was a unique playground if you love mathematics and physics,” she said.

    After meeting some ORNL researchers at a Society of Women Engineers conference, Hua made the decision in early 2016 to apply for a fellowship that would allow her to focus on micro- and nanoscale heat transfer and energy conversion at the lab. The Liane B. Russell Distinguished Early Career Fellowship attracts scientists who have demonstrated outstanding scientific ability and research interests that align with core capabilities at the lab.

    “My advisor encouraged me to apply and within one week I wrote my proposal on ‘Exploring Thermal Transport in Nanostructured Materials for Thermal Energy Conversion and Management.’ I interviewed in November 2015 and four days after the new year, I was invited to become a fellow at ORNL,” she said.

    Uprooting again to East Tennessee, Hua has found a supportive community that encourages the sharing of new ideas and interdisciplinary research.

    “I’ve been able to live in different parts of the U.S.,” she said. “But, everywhere I’ve been, I’ve found support and an environment that promotes ideas and stimulating conversation between scientists.”

    While Hua has adapted to many moves and changes, one part of her research and studies remains unchanged.

    “Heat always flows from hot to cold,” she said. “It’s the constant in the continuum.”

    See the full article here .

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    ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.


  • richardmitnick 2:20 pm on October 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, , , Women in STEM   

    From Quanta: Women in STEM: “Mining Black Hole Collisions for New Physics” Asimina Arvanitaki 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    July 21, 2016
    Joshua Sokol

    The physicist Asimina Arvanitaki is thinking up ways to search gravitational wave data for evidence of dark matter particles orbiting black holes.

    Asimina Arvanitaki during a July visit to the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.
    Samuel Rubio for Quanta Magazine

    When physicists announced in February that they had detected gravitational waves firsthand, the foundations of physics scarcely rattled.

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    The signal exactly matched the expectations physicists had arrived at after a century of tinkering with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. “There is a question: Can you do fundamental physics with it? Can you do things beyond the standard model with it?” said Savas Dimopoulos, a theoretical physicist at Stanford University. “And most people think the answer to that is no.”

    Asimina Arvanitaki is not one of those people. A theoretical physicist at Ontario’s Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics,

    Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada

    Arvanitaki has been dreaming up ways to use black holes to explore nature’s fundamental particles and forces since 2010, when she published a paper with Dimopoulos, her mentor from graduate school, and others. Together, they sketched out a “string axiverse,” a pantheon of as yet undiscovered, weakly interacting particles. Axions such as these have long been a favored candidate to explain dark matter and other mysteries.

    In the intervening years, Arvanitaki and her colleagues have developed the idea through successive papers. But February’s announcement marked a turning point, where it all started to seem possible to test these ideas. Studying gravitational waves from the newfound population of merging black holes would allow physicists to search for those axions, since the axions would bind to black holes in what Arvanitaki describes as a “black hole atom.”

    “When it came up, we were like, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to do it now, we’re going to look for this,’” she said. “It’s a whole different ball game if you actually have data.”

    That’s Arvanitaki’s knack: matching what she calls “well-motivated,” field-hopping theoretical ideas with the precise experiment that could probe them. “By thinking away from what people are used to thinking about, you see that there is low-hanging fruit that lie in the interfaces,” she said. At the end of April, she was named the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Aristarchus Chair at the Perimeter Institute, the first woman to hold a research chair there.

    It’s a long way to come for someone raised in the small Grecian village of Koklas, where the graduating class at her high school — at which both of her parents taught — consisted of nine students. Quanta Magazine spoke with Arvanitaki about her plan to use black holes as particle detectors. An edited and condensed version of those discussions follows.

    QUANTA MAGZINE: When did you start to think that black holes might be good places to look for axions?

    ASIMINA ARVANITAKI: When we were writing the axiverse paper, Nemanja Kaloper, a physicist who is very good in general relativity, came and told us, “Hey, did you know there is this effect in general relativity called superradiance?” And we’re like, “No, this cannot be, I don’t think this happens. This cannot happen for a realistic system. You must be wrong.” And then he eventually convinced us that this could be possible, and then we spent like a year figuring out the dynamics.
    What is superradiance, and how does it work?

    An astrophysical black hole can rotate. There is a region around it called the “ergo region” where even light has to rotate. Imagine I take a piece of matter and throw it in a trajectory that goes through the ergo region. Now imagine you have some explosives in the matter, and it breaks apart into pieces. Part of it falls into the black hole and part escapes into infinity. The piece that is coming out has more total energy than the piece that went in the black hole.

    You can perform the same experiment by scattering radiation from a black hole. Take an electromagnetic wave pulse, scatter it from the black hole, and you see that the pulse you got back has a higher amplitude.

    So you can send a pulse of light near a black hole in such a way that it would take some energy and angular momentum from the black hole’s spin?

    This is old news, by the way, this is very old news. In ’72 Press and Teukolsky wrote a Nature paper that suggested the following cute thing. Let’s imagine you performed the same experiment as the light, but now imagine that you have the black hole surrounded by a giant mirror. What will happen in that case is the light will bounce on the mirror many times, the amplitude [of the light] grows exponentially, and the mirror eventually explodes due to radiation pressure. They called it the black hole bomb.

    The property that allows light to do this is that light is made of photons, and photons are bosons — particles that can sit in the same space at the same time with the same wave function. Now imagine that you have another boson that has a mass. It can [orbit] the black hole. The particle’s mass acts like a mirror, because it confines the particle in the vicinity of the black hole.

    In this way, axions might get stuck around a black hole?

    This process requires that the size of the particle is comparable to the black hole size. Turns out that [axion] mass can be anywhere from Hubble scale — with a quantum wavelength as big as the universe — or you could have a particle that’s tiny in size.

    So if they exist, axions can bind to black holes with a similar size and mass. What’s next?

    What happens is the number of particles in this bound orbit starts growing exponentially. At the same time the black hole spins down. If you solve for the wave functions of the bound orbits, what you find is that they look like hydrogen wave functions. Instead of electromagnetism binding your atom, what’s binding it is gravity. There are three quantum numbers you can describe, just the same. You can use the exact terminology that you can use in the hydrogen atom.

    How could we check to see if any of the black holes LIGO finds have axion clouds orbiting around black hole nuclei?

    This is a process that extracts energy and angular momentum from the black hole. If you were to measure spin versus mass of black holes, you should see that in a certain mass range for black holes you see no quickly rotating black holes.

    This is where Advanced LIGO comes in. You saw the event they saw. [Their measurements] allowed them to measure the masses of the merging objects, the mass of the final object, the spin of the final object, and to have some information about the spins of the initial objects.

    If I were to take the spins of the black holes before they merged, they could have been affected by superradiance. Now imagine a graph of black hole spin versus mass. Advanced LIGO could maybe get, if the things that we hear are correct, a thousand events per year. Now you have a thousand data points on this plot. So you may trace out the region that is affected by this particle just by those measurements.

    That would be supercool.

    That’s of course indirect. So the other cool thing is that it turns out there are signatures that have to do with the cloud of particles themselves. And essentially what they do is turn the black hole into a gravitational wave laser.

    Awesome. OK, what does that mean?

    Samuel Rubio for Quanta Magazine

    Yeah, what that means is important. Just like you have transitions of electrons in an excited atom, you can have transitions of particles in the gravitational wave atom. The rate of emission of gravitational waves from these transitions is enhanced by the 1080 particles that you have. It would look like a very monochromatic line. It wouldn’t look like a transient. Imagine something now that emits a signal at a very fixed frequency.

    Where could LIGO expect to see signals like this?

    In Advanced LIGO, you actually see the birth of a black hole. You know when and where a black hole was born with a certain mass and a certain spin. So if you know the particle masses that you’re looking for, you can predict when the black hole will start growing the [axion] cloud around it. It could be that you see a merger in that day, and one or 10 years down the line, they go back to the same position and they see this laser turning on, they see this monochromatic line coming out from the cloud.

    You can also do a blind search. Because you have black holes that are roaming the universe by themselves, and they could still have some leftover cloud around them, you can do a blind search for monochromatic gravitational waves.

    Were you surprised to find out that axions and black holes could combine to produce such a dramatic effect?

    Oh my god yes. What are you talking about? We had panic attacks. You know how many panic attacks we had saying that this effect, no, this cannot be true, this is too good to be true? So yes, it was a surprise.

    The experiments you suggest draw from a lot of different theoretical ideas — like how we could look for high-frequency gravitational waves with tabletop sensors, or test whether dark matter oscillates using atomic clocks. When you’re thinking about making risky bets on physics beyond the standard model, what sorts of theories seem worth the effort?

    What is well motivated? Things that are not: “What if you had this?” People imagine: “What if dark matter was this thing? What if dark matter was the other thing?” For example, supersymmetry makes predictions about what types of dark matter should be there. String theory makes predictions about what types of particles you should have. There is always an underlying reason why these particles are there; it’s not just the endless theoretical possibilities that we have.

    And axions fit that definition?

    This is a particle that was proposed 30 years ago to explain the smallness of the observed electric dipole moment of the neutron. There are several experiments around the world looking for it already, at different wavelengths. So this particle, we’ve been looking for it for 30 years. This can be the dark matter. That particle solves an outstanding problem of the standard model, so that makes it a good particle to look for.

    Now, whether or not the particle is there I cannot answer for nature. Nature will have to answer.

    See the full article here .

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    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

  • richardmitnick 1:31 pm on October 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An early interest in tricks of light led Dionne to begin wielding it as a tool during graduate school at Caltech and then her postdoc at UC Berkeley, , Jennifer Dionne, , , Women in STEM   

    From ScienceNews: Women in STEM – “Jennifer Dionne harnesses light to illuminate nano landscapes” 

    ScienceNews bloc


    October 4, 2017
    Emily Conover

    Tiny particles could light the way to improved cancer tests or drugs with fewer side effects.

    LEADING LIGHT Jennifer Dionne, 35 Materials scientist, Stanford University.
    Materials scientist Jennifer Dionne melds purpose and play in her work with matter and light. Timothy Archibald

    To choose her research goals, Jennifer Dionne envisions conversations with hypothetical grandchildren, 50 years down the line. What would she want to tell them she had accomplished? Then, to chart a path to that future, “I work backward to figure out what are the milestones en route,” she says.

    That long-term vision has led the 35-year-old materials scientist on a quest to wrangle light and convince it to do her bidding in interactions with nanoparticles and various materials. Already, Dionne has created new nanomaterials that steer light in ways that are impossible with natural substances. Her new projects could eventually lead to light-based technologies used to improve drugs or to create new tests to find cancerous cells. There are even applications for renewable energy, for example, designing materials that help solar cells absorb more light.

    But the route to a scientific vision may not always be clear, so Dionne makes time for diversions. “A lot of the really amazing discoveries that we enjoy today came from just playing in the lab,” she says. Dionne encourages her team to let creativity be a guide, melding a serious sense of purpose with play.

    “She’s a very curious person, so she’s always learning new things,” says Paul Alivisatos, the vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Berkeley, who mentored Dionne when she was a postdoc there. Plus, “she’s an extremely deep and rigorous thinker.”

    Dionne, now at Stanford University, studies nanophotonics, the way that light interacts with matter on very small scales. Her interest in light and materials began in childhood, she recalls, when she was fascinated by the blue morpho butterfly.

    The insect’s wings sport an azure hue that comes not from pigments, like most colors found in living things, but from tiny nanostructures on the wings’ surface (SN: 6/7/08, p. 26). When light reflects off the structures, blue wavelengths are amplified, while wavelengths corresponding to other colors are canceled out.

    That early interest in tricks of light led Dionne to begin wielding it as a tool during graduate school at Caltech and then her postdoc at UC Berkeley. Then and now, says Alivisatos, “she has consistently done very beautiful work.”

    At Caltech, Dionne and colleagues created a bizarre optical material in which light bends backward. As light passes from one material to another — say, from air to water — the rays are deflected due to a property called the index of refraction. (That’s why a straw in a drinking glass appears to be broken at the water’s surface.) In natural materials, light always bends in the same direction. But that rule gets flipped around in oddball nanomaterials with a negative index of refraction.

    G. Dolling et al/Optics Express 2006
    Light rays bend as they pass from air into water, making a drinking straw look broken (illustrated in a computer-generated image, left). In materials with a negative index of refraction (right), light rays bend in the opposite direction they normally do, so that the straw appears flipped around.

    Dionne’s material, reported in Science in 2007, was the first that worked with visible light (SN: 3/24/07, p. 180). Because they can steer light around objects to hide the objects from view, such materials could be used to create rudimentary versions of invisibility cloaks — though so far all attempts are a far cry from Harry Potter’s version. Dionne is now working on a “squid skin” with an adjustable refractive index, which would mimic the shifting camouflage patterns of the stealthy cephalopod.

    Another focal point of Dionne’s research is harnessing light to separate mixtures of mirror-image molecules. Right- and left-handed versions of these molecules are perfect reflections of each other, like a person’s right and left hands. The two types are so similar that scientists struggle to separate them, which can cause problems for drugmakers. In drugs, these molecules can be two-faced; one might relieve pain, while the other causes unwanted side effects.

    To separate molecules and their mirror images, Dionne is developing techniques that use circularly polarized light, in which the light’s wiggling electromagnetic waves rotate over time. Such light can interact differently with right- and left-handed molecules, for example, breaking apart one version while leaving the other unscathed.

    Normally, the light’s effect is very weak. But in a theoretical study published in ACS Photonics last December, Dionne and colleagues showed that adding nanoparticles to the mix could enhance the process. These tiny particles behave like antennas that concentrate the light onto nearby molecules, helping break them apart. Dionne is now working to implement the technique.

    She and her colleagues have also created nanoparticles that, when illuminated with infrared light, emit visible light. The color of that light changes depending on how tightly the nanoparticle is squeezed, the team reported in Nano Letters in June. In keeping with her penchant for creative exploration in the lab, Dionne and colleagues fed these nanoparticles to roundworms, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, to study the forces exerted as a transparent worm squeezed a meal through its digestive tract.

    “You can see the nanoparticles change colors throughout,” Dionne says. She plans to use the technique to reveal more sinister squeezing. Cancer cells exert stronger mechanical forces on their environment than healthy cells, so such nanoparticles could one day be used to test for cancer, she says. Dionne is now cooking up other creative ways to use these nanoparticles. In collaboration with other researchers, she hopes to marshal her color-changing nanoparticles to understand how jellyfish move and how plants take a drink.

    Dionne’s work exploits light to reveal hidden forces — and as a force for good. “She’s done amazing work,” says materials scientist Prineha Narang of Harvard University. Narang was a graduate student at Caltech after Dionne left, and had heard chatter about Dionne before meeting her in person. “The legend of Jen Dionne was definitely all over,” Narang says. So Dionne has made a start at establishing her scientific legacy — even before that chat with her future grandchildren.

    At the full article many citations with links.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:48 am on October 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Women in STEM, Women once powered the tech industry: Can they do it again?   

    From Science Node: “Women once powered the tech industry: Can they do it again?” 

    Science Node bloc
    Science Node

    02 Oct, 2017
    Alisa Alering

    As women enter a field, compensation tends to decline. Is the tech meritocracy a lie?


    Marie Hicks wants us to think about how gender and sexuality influence technological progress and why diversity might matter more in tech than in other fields.

    An assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Hicks studies the history of technological progress and the global computer revolution.

    In Programmed Inequality: How Britain discarded women technologists and lost its edge in computing, Hicks discusses how Britain undermined its early success in computation after World War II by neglecting its trained technical workforce — at that time largely composed of women.

    We had a few questions for Hicks about what lessons Britain’s past mistakes might hold for the seemingly-unstoppable economic engine that is Silicon Valley today.

    ‘Technical’ used to be associated with low status, less-skilled work, but now tech jobs are seen as high-status. How did the term evolve?

    In the UK, the class system was such that touching a machine in any way, even if it was an office computer, was seen as lower-class. For a time, there was enormous resistance to doing anything technical by the white men who were in the apex position of society.

    The US had less of that sort of built-in bias against technical work, but there was still the assumption that if you were working with a machine, the machine was doing most of the work. You were more of a tender or a minder—you were pushing buttons.

    The change resulted from a very intentional, concerted push from people inside these nascent fields to professionalize and raise the status of their jobs. All of these professional bodies that we have today, the IEEE and so on, were created in this period. They were helped along by the fact that this is difficult work, and there was a lot of call for it, leading to persistent shortages of people who could do the work.

    We’re in an interesting moment, when these professions are at their peak, and now we’re starting to see them decline in importance and remuneration. More and more, people are hired into jobs that are broken down in ways that require less skill or less training. New college hires are brought into them and the turnover is such that people no longer have the guarantee of a career.

    Will diversity initiatives, rather than elevating women, devalue the status of the field, as happened previously in professions like teaching and librarianship?

    We can see that already happening for certain subfields. Women are pushed into areas like quality assurance rather than what would be considered higher-level, more important, infrastructural engineering positions. The jobs require, in many cases, identical skills, and yet those subfields are paid less and have a lower status.

    The discrepancies are very much linked to the fact that there are a higher proportion of women doing the work. It’s a cycle: High pay and high status professions usually become more male-dominated. If that changes and more women enter the field, pay declines. The perception of the field changes, even if the work remains the same.

    Does the tech industry have a greater problem with structural inequality, or is the conversation just more visible?

    The really significant thing about tech is that it’s so powerful. It’s becoming the secondary branch of our government at this point. That’s why it’s so critical to look at lack of diversity in Silicon Valley.

    There’s just so much at stake in terms of who has the power to decide how we live, how we die, how we’re governed, just the entire shape of our lives.

    How do you suggest we tackle the problem?

    There’s this whole myth of meritocracy that attempts to solve the problem of diversity in STEM through the pipeline model — that, essentially, if we get enough white women and people of color into the beginning end of the pipeline, they’ll come out the other end as captains of industry who are in a position to make real changes in these fields.

    ut, of course, what happens is that they just leak out of the pipeline, because stuffing more and more people into a discriminatory system in an attempt to fix it doesn’t work.

    If you want more women and people of color in management, you have to hire them into those higher positions. You have to get people to make lateral moves from other industries. You have to promote people rather than saying, “Oh, you come in at the bottom level, and you somehow prove yourself.” It’s not going to be possible to get people to the top in that way.

    What we’ve seen is decades and decades where people have been kept at the bottom after they come in at the bottom. We have to have a real disruption in how we think about these jobs and how we hire for them. We can’t just do the same old thing but try to add more women and more people of color into the mix.

    See the full article here .

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    Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

    In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

    You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

  • richardmitnick 8:18 am on October 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Women in STEM   

    From ALICE: Women in STEM – “Focus on Ester Casula” 

    CERN New Masthead

    18 September 2017 [Just found in social media.]

    Ester Casula

    Ester Anna Rita Casula is a postdoctoral researcher at the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) of Cagliari – her hometown.


    NAZIONALI del GRAN SASSO, located in L’Aquila, Italy

    She has been ALICE Run Manager for two weeks between June and August of this year.

    During her second week of shift, I meet Ester at point 2, where she spends most of her time monitoring the data taking and making sure everything runs smoothly.

    Sitting with me in the kitchen next to the control room, she talks smiling and laughing. I can see that she has a very extroverted personality. Besides telling me about her work, she unveils an uncommon passion of hers…

    What’s you background and your career path up to now?

    I have studied Physics at the University of Cagliari, in Italy, and I have been a member of the ALICE collaboration since when I was working on my Bachelor’s Degree thesis. At that time, we didn’t have data yet, so I used Monte Carlo simulations. Then, for my Master’s Degree thesis and during my PhD I focused on the analysis of low masses in the di-muon channel – thus, mainly the F – in pp, Pb-Pb and p-Pb collisions at all of the energies we have taken data with. I started with the data from pp collisions at 7 TeV – for my Master’s thesis – and then continued with the other energies and with p-Pb and Pb-Pb data (in detail: pp at 2.76 and 5 TeV, p-Pb at 5 TeV, Pb-Pb at 2.76 and 5 TeV).

    After completing my PhD in 2014, I started a first postdoc with the University of Cagliari and now I am concluding a second postdoc with the INFN in the same town.

    I am based in Cagliari, but in the last months I have spent most of my time at CERN and, in particular, in the control room, since I have also followed some runs as a shift leader.

    How do you like being the run manager?

    It is an interesting experience: every day you might have to face a different problem. For example, during my shift once we were called by the LHC control room to be informed that ALICE was causing the dump of the beam. Of course, we had to solve the issue very quickly. It happened in the dead of the night and I was at home. As soon as I received the call by the shift leader I got up and went to the control room. Luckily I am staying nearby, in Saint-Genis.

    In situations like this you have to react quickly, try to understand the issue as fast as you can and take decisions. In this specific case, the problem was caused by the threshold of the Beam Control Monitors (BCM), which are basically protection devices. We called the expert on call for the BCM, who checked the situation and fixed this issue. Even though the problem seemed to be solved, I kept staying in the control room until 5 am, because I was worried that something else could happen.

    What do you like the most of this role?

    Certainly this, the fact that you need to keep under control and solve different kinds of issues. In addition, you have to give instructions and take decisions: this is quite challenging, if you are not used to it. Actually, you start training in taking responsibilities already when you are the shift leader. When you become run manager, you go a little step forward. I spend a lot of time in the control room and, when I am at home, I check continuously the electronic log to know how the run is proceeding. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do – even before standing up – is checking online the status of the accelerator, to know if it is working, and of the experiment.

    It sounds a bit stressing…

    Well, it can be stressing sometimes, indeed. In particular because you have to be ready and react quickly; but, actually, I am finding it easier this week, since it is my second time as run manager.

    You can count on the run coordinator anyway, right?

    Sure. But we call her only if something very important happens. For normal issues, such as a shift leader having some doubts about the operations to perform, the run manager takes on the responsibility. Certainly, it is important to know what the most common issues are. That is why, before starting my first shift, I overlapped with the previous run manager for some days.

    What’s your main field of interest?

    I work on the analysis of the F in Pb-Pb collisions. An article on this topic based on data at 2.75 TeV is in preparation and now we are analyzing data from collisions at 5 TeV. I am quite specialized on this topic.

    Would you like to change topic to do something different?

    Yes, why not?

    Actually, when I was doing my first steps in the analysis, I made some study on the U, but it was based on simulations only, so it was more of an exercise than a real analysis.

    Anyway, I will see. I will have to evaluate the opportunities.

    What are your plans for the future?

    My postdoctoral contract at INFN will get to an end soon, so I will have to look for another job. I would prefer to keep staying in Cagliari, but I am also taking into consideration the possibility to make an experience in another country.

    Where? Or where absolutely not?

    Well, preferably in Europe, but not necessarily. Certainly I would avoid cold places… [She laughs].

    Would you like to teach?

    I don’t know. I have been a tutor for two courses at the University, which means that I helped the professor with the laboratory lessons. It was an interesting experience, but I am not particularly attracted to teaching, mainly because it takes a lot of time to prepare classes and find the right way to explain complex topics.

    Thus, I guess you would prefer to work for a Laboratory, as you are doing at INFN?

    Ideally yes, I would prefer to focus only on research.

    Nevertheless, I don’t exclude the academic career either. I think that I can enjoy part of the process of training students, even though I think it can be hard and tiring.

    What are your interests outside work?

    Well, my main hobby is breeding dogs. I raise them and make them compete in dog shows, which are dog beauty contests. [She laughs.]

    How many dogs do you have?

    I have three at my place, in Cagliari. Three more are looked after by some friends of mine but I make them participate in competitions as well.

    I get a litter of puppies once every three years and I keep some of them. They are all Italian Greyhounds with pedigree. I own the mother and select a father when I decide to have new puppies. [She laughs again.]

    What moves you to do this?

    I love them. I have even created the world online database of the Italian hounds, which didn’t exist before. I started it by myself, then I got some help from other three breeders in US and France. We have registered about 60,000 dogs. Unfortunately, we could go backward only till the end of the 19th century. Lately, the national dog clubs are putting information online, but in order to collect old data I had to rely on the original documentation. So, I went personally to the headquarters of the Italian National Dog Institution (ENCI) in Milan and photocopied all the certificates they have, from 1912 up to now.

    This is cool, but why did you do it?

    See the full article here .

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    Meet CERN in a variety of places:

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  • richardmitnick 10:26 am on September 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Women in STEM   

    From ETH Zürich: Women in STEM- “At home in the world of cold atoms” Physicist Laura Corman 

    ETH Zurich bloc

    ETH Zürich

    Isabelle Herold

    Laura Corman plunges into the world of cold atoms (Image: Annick Ramp/ETH Zürich)

    Physicist Laura Corman is fascinated by the behaviour of electrons in solids. But this up and coming researcher’s other interests give her plenty of opportunities to get out of the lab.

    For most people, the world of cold atoms is likely to be somewhat of an enigma. In contrast, Laura Corman (a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Quantum Electronics) can’t hide her enthusiasm when she explains how atoms suddenly become visible and gather into clouds. For her, this is a unique visual experience – almost magical. The cooling of atoms to near absolute zero allows scientists to draw conclusions about the behaviour of electrons in solids.

    Laura Corman enjoys popularising science and succeeded in taking her complex subject through to the finals of the competition “Ma thèse en 180 secondes” (My thesis in 180 seconds). Here, she compared atoms to the spectators in the hall: If they have time, they occupy an even spread of seats. If you stop them abruptly, however, there are gaps here and collisions there. “After that, even my grandmother understood what my work is about,” the 29-year-old says.

    Corman discovered her passion for science as a ten-year-old when she visited an amateur observatory during the summer holidays in Provence. She is enormously grateful to her parents – her father is an engineer in the automobile industry, her mother a teacher – for giving her and her younger brother the opportunity to discover different worlds from an early age.

    When she went to university, she moved from the northernmost tip of France to Paris. There, whole new horizons once again opened up before her: “As I experimented with my own projects, I increasingly understood how things were connected.” In her spare time, she became involved in an association helping socially disadvantaged children to learn mathematics and physics.

    In the minority

    When it came to studying for her Master’s in physics, she toyed with the idea of an exchange in the USA. Then some colleagues brought ETH to her attention, and she applied immediately. The interest was mutual: ETH offered Corman an Excellence Scholarship, and her move to Switzerland was settled. To round off her year, she received the Willi Studer Prize for her outstanding mark in her final Master’s examination.

    As a woman, she has always been in a minority within her subject. As far as she is concerned, though, this has hardly made any difference – or rather, just once. This was when Corman felt that she was getting less interesting work to do than her male colleagues during an industrial internship. Being a direct person, she refused to accept that. In hindsight, she wondered to what extent the problem really had to do with the fact she is a woman, or whether perhaps prejudices were distorting her perception. “Men probably never ask themselves questions like that,” Corman acknowledges thoughtfully.

    Laura Corman, Postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Quantum Electronics

    When Professor of Quantum Optics Tilman Esslinger invited her to return to his laboratory at ETH after her doctorate in Paris, she did not hesitate for a moment. The team is fantastic, the infrastructure and support superb, says Corman. She is now receiving support from the ETH fellowship programme for promising postdoctoral researchers, although she still finds it a huge challenge to give lectures in German. In order to improve their language skills and make some contacts, she and her partner play handball at the ASVZ. “Whether it’s handball or German, we are total beginners in both,” she laughs.

    Corman is adamant that she would continue to pursue her career, even if she were to become a mother someday. In France that’s the norm, she explains, although the conditions there are somewhat different: a single income is not usually enough to get by, but then day care places are affordable and in sufficient supply. Corman gets annoyed that it is often only women who are confronted with the issue of reconciling work and family life. Nowadays that’s just as much a matter for men, and it’s mainly a question of organisation.

    Where her career path will one day lead her still remains to be seen: “It would be fantastic to establish my own group at a university. But exciting possibilities might be lying in wait in other places too – everything is left to play for.”

    See the full article here .

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    ETH Zurich campus
    ETH Zurich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

    Founded in 1855, ETH Zurich today has more than 18,500 students from over 110 countries, including 4,000 doctoral students. To researchers, it offers an inspiring working environment, to students, a comprehensive education.

    Twenty-one Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich, underlining the excellent reputation of the university.

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