August 24, 2021

A recent Ph.D. graduate and a doctoral student from The Catholic University of America Department of Physics have been honored with the prestigious 2021 Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) fellowships from the Jefferson Lab Electron-Ion Collider Center. 

Salina Ali, who graduated in October 2020 and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Virginia, was awarded the postdoctoral fellowship for her work on developing a new type of Micro-Pattern Gaseous Detector (MPGD) that will be used for tracking particles in the future EIC. Doctoral student Richard Trotta received the graduate fellowship for his work on the extraction of pion and kaon structure functions. Prior to this award, Trotta served for two years as a Jefferson Lab fellow. 

The EIC is a one-of-a-kind nuclear physics research facility funded by the federal government, primarily through the Department of Energy. It will be designed and constructed over 10 years at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. Its purpose is to smash electrons into protons and heavier atomic nuclei in an effort to penetrate the mysteries of the “strong force” that binds the atomic nucleus together. The EIC was proposed to address these outstanding puzzles in modern nuclear physics by a large group of researchers that includes Catholic University physics professors Tanja Horn, Ian Pegg, and Grzegorz Kalicy. Horn is the contact person for the EIC ECCE Detector proposal, a $300 million device to be built over the next ten years, and Kalicy is leading one of the key EIC detector technologies and subsystem construction projects.

The fellowships, which are awarded for a period of one year, fund EIC related research including innovations to maximize scientific output and studies to expedite both scientific and experimental readiness for EIC operations. Each graduate fellowship provides the awardee’s home institution with a $13,000 stipend as well as limited travel support for conferences. As a postdoctoral fellowship recipient, Ali will receive a larger stipend of $36,000.

Horn said she is very proud of Ali and Trotta for winning the prestigious fellowships, calling it “a very unusual and great achievement.” She noted that her students were in competition with candidates from major research universities and institutions in the United States and abroad. 

“The fellowship will allow me to develop state-of-the-art technology for the detector to be low-mass and have low-readout channel count, which are ideal characteristics for end-cap tracking detectors in the EIC,” Ali said, noting that her time in the graduate program at Catholic University played a large role in preparing her for the fellowship. “I am especially looking forward to testing the detector at Jefferson Lab facilities and presenting my progress and results at various conferences and workshops throughout the world.” 

"The EIC will pave the way towards a full understanding of the internal structure of the proton,” said Trotta, who said he’s excited to work with more experts in his field through the fellowship. “In order to study the proton's structure, we first have to understand the structure of pions and kaons. … This fellowship will allow me to expand studies into the structure of pions and kaons through the use of simulations. These simulations will help develop the detector specifications for the EIC.”