Notre Dame Physics PhD Erica Holmbeck (2020) has received the 2022 Disseration Award in Nuclear Physics. This award recognizes doctoral thesis research of outstanding quality and achievement in nuclear physics. Holmbeck is currently at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena.
The citation reads: "For thesis work elucidating the nature of the rapid neutron-capture process, including actinide production in the early Universe, with an innovative combination of nuclear network calculations and spectroscopic observations of metal-poor stars in the Milky Way."
Holmbeck received her B.S. in Astrophysics at the University of California Los Angeles in 2014, then went on to do her graduate work at the University of Notre Dame. There, she was jointly advised by Professor Rebecca Surman in nuclear theory and Professor Timothy Beers in observational astronomy. Her thesis work involved measuring and applying stellar actinide signatures to study the nuclear and astrophysical conditions that produce the heaviest elements by the rapid neutron-capture process. After receiving her Ph.D. in 2020, Erika pursued the theoretical side of her studies as a postdoctoral researcher at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), working at the Center for Computational Research and Gravitation with Professor Richard O'Shaughnessy. Her research at RIT involved investigating nuclear equation of state (EOS) effects on neutron star mergers and using stellar actinides to constrain the neutron star EOS. Erika was recently selected as a NASA Hubble Fellowship Program 2021 Fellow, which currently brings her to the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, CA, where she will focus on the observational aspect on her work.
The APS DNP selection committee members were Sherry Yennello (Chair), Mohammad Ahmed, Martha Constantinou, Richard Furnstahl, Krishna Kumar, and Julie Roche.