PRISMA⁺ Cluster of Excellence: Double award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Postdoc Joanna Sobczyk receives Humboldt Research Fellowship, Professor Matthias Schott selected as Humboldt Scout
Double cause for celebration at the PRISMA⁺ Cluster of Excellence at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU): Dr. Joanna Sobczyk, who has been conducting research as a postdoc in Prof. Dr. Sonia Bacca’s group at the Institute for Nuclear Physics since the beginning of 2020, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Fellowship. Prof. Dr. Matthias Schott, Professor of Experimental Particle Physics at PRISMA+, was selected as a Humboldt Scout in the context of the Henriette Herz Scouting Programme. This enables him to propose up to three junior researchers for a direct award of the Humboldt Research Fellowship and invite them to Mainz. Humboldt Scouts were appointed for the first time for this new access to Humboldt Research Fellowships parallel to the regular application procedure. Joanna Sobczyk and Matthias Schott were able to convince the selection committees of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with innovative research proposals and recruiting concepts. These awards thus also support the promotion of young researchers and internationalization as important structural goals of the Cluster of Excellence PRISMA⁺.
Joanna Sobczyk: Understanding neutrino physics from scratch
Joanna Sobczyk is fascinated by neutrinos – those ghostly particles that penetrate our Earth millions of times over, yet are very difficult to detect and understand. With new planned experiments – such as the DUNE experiment in the U.S. – scientists want to investigate some fundamental neutrino properties in more detail, for example the phenomenon that the three types of neutrinos are constantly transforming into each other – neutrino oscillation in the technical jargon. To do this, they need important information from theoretical calculations. Joanna Sobczyk is specifically concerned with the question of how neutrinos interact with atomic nuclei. „This is where two research areas of the Cluster of Excellence meet, so to speak,“ she explains. „High-energy physics and nuclear physics. I want to calculate very precisely from scratch – that is, starting from the fundamental theories we have – what happens when a neutrino hits an atomic nucleus.“ From this, models can be developed and processes simulated, which in turn are essential for experimental colleagues to perform and interpret their experiments. In Mainz, in Sonia Bacca’s group, Joanna Sobczyk finds ideal conditions for her theoretical research, because the group is very successful in predicting properties of the atomic nucleus that can be derived from the forces between the nuclear components – the nucleons – and their interactions. Specifically, Joanna Sobczyk plans to calculate the interaction of neutrinos with nuclei of the elements oxygen (16O) and argon (40Ar) – both of which will play important roles in later neutrino experiments.
Joanna Sobczyk has been conducting postdoctoral research in Mainz since January 2020. She was initially funded by the Irène Joliot-Curie Program with a Fellowship for Transition Periods – a program initiated by PRISMA⁺ to facilitate the transition of excellent young female scientists from their PhD to their first postdoc position and to encourage them to follow the scientific career path. The successful application for a Humboldt Research Fellowship now offers her the opportunity to consistently pursue her research projects.
Matthias Schott: Talent scout in particle physics
Global exchange in the context of his research is nothing new for Matthias Schott: „Work in experimental particle physics is characterized by large international collaborations from all over the world. Collaborations and diversity are therefore always a key component in successfully implementing my research agenda.“ So what could be more natural than applying as a research scout? Matthias Schott says, „The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s newly launched program is a unique opportunity to expand our research network and at the same time inspire young scientific talent to work in Germany.“
Matthias Schott’s concept envisages a multi-stage selection process – and transfers ideas to the international stage, which he already regularly uses in Mainz with his team. To appeal young talents, Matthias Schott will donate prizes for the best contribution of young scientists at selected congresses and then invite the winners to give a more detailed presentation in Mainz. „I would like to target exactly those young researchers for a future Humboldt Fellowship,“ explains Matthias Schott. The final decision is then made by a specially established selection committee, which includes team members as well as other researchers from the university. However, the future fellows should not only do research: They should also be involved in teaching and supervision and will have the opportunity to select students for a two-month internship. For Matthias Schott, this is the „perfect starting point for gaining a foothold at a faculty or for setting up one’s own research group.“
Dr. Joanna Sobczyk
Institute for Nuclear Physics and PRISMA+ Cluster of Excellence
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Prof. Dr. Matthias Schott
Experimental Particle and Astroparticle Physics (ETAP)
Institute of Physics and PRISMA+ Cluster of Excellence
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Tel. +49 6131 39-20399