Postdoc honored at Tokyo conference

Jorge Pereira, a Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA) postdoc whose research focuses on one of the most enigmatic nuclear processes in the cosmos, has received a prestigious Young Scientist Award sponsored by the journal Nuclear Physics A. The award was presented June 7 at the International Nuclear Physics Conference (INPC) in Tokyo.

Pereira’s oral presentation of his paper, “Studies of r-process nuclei at NSCL,” was deemed best at the conference by a scientist under the age of 35. INPC takes places every four years and attracts hundreds of physicists from all over the world.

Pereira adjusting detector electronics during a 2005 NSCL r-process experimental campaign.

Believed to occur in spectacular iron-core collapse supernovae, the r-process describes how unstable neutron-rich nuclei form in high-temperature, high-neutron-density environments.

“We’ve made great strides here at NSCL in understanding the r-process, which has been a focus of research in astrophysics for at least 50 years,” said Pereira, who received a prize of 750 euros with the award.

During the r-process, nuclei are bombarded by many billions of trillions of neutrons per second. The process is thought to forge elements that are heavier than iron, the stable isotope of which has 26 protons and 30 neutrons.

Though much is known about these heavier elements, precise details about their origins remain elusive. The National Research Council’s Committee on Physics has declared the issue that inspires study of the r-process – How were the heavy elements from iron to uranium made? – to be one of 11 physics questions for the new century.

New or upgraded facilities, such as the Isotope Science Facility at Michigan State University, are needed to understand to the full range of unstable, rare isotopes that can exist in nature.

Pereira, 31, has worked at NSCL for nearly three years with support from JINA. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain in 2004.

His work is supported by the National Science Foundation.

Additional information

Pereira’s conference presentation: “Studies of r-process nuclei at NSCL” (PPT, 10.6 mB)

Nucleosynthesis in the r-process (MOV, 125 mB)

Isotope Science Facility at Michigan State University

- Geoff Koch, June 13, 2007