“FAIR is a reason to be here” — Dr. Alexandre Obertelli receives Humboldt Professorship at TU Darmstadt


The Technical University Darmstadt is awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for the first time; it is also the first one in the state of Hesse. In his role as a Humboldt Professor at TU Darmstadt, Dr. Alexandre Obertelli is set to expand the field of physics of rare isotopes into a world‐leading research location. He will also be involved in the development of the FAIR particle accelerator facility at GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt, which is currently under construction. The nuclear physicist, nominated by the TU Darmstadt, is one of five scientists from abroad who have been selected this year for Germany's most highly endowed international research award.

“The international FAIR accelerator facility with its unique research opportunities for scientists from all over the world is one of the reasons for me to come to TU Darmstadt,” says Obertelli. “I look forward to working at FAIR and contributing to its scientific output by my research. This will also enhance the cooperation between TU Darmstadt and FAIR, and will further establish the ‘City of Science’ Darmstadt as a world-class research location.”

The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, which is endowed with up to five million euros each, is awarded to the world's leading researchers of all disciplines who have so far worked in another country. They are to conduct forward-looking research at German universities in the long term. The award is granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The Humboldt Professorship enables German universities to offer top international researchers competitive general conditions for research and to sharpen their own international profiles in the global research market at the same time. The award is granted on the precondition that the new Humboldt Professors are given long-term prospects for their research in Germany. To date, a total of 68 researchers, including twelve women, have been appointed to a Humboldt Professorship, facilitating their move to Germany.

Born in France, Alexandre Obertelli previously worked at the Institute of Research into the Fundamental Laws of the Universe (IRFU) at the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA) in Paris‐Saclay, France, from 2006 as a Senior Researcher. In between times, he conducted research in the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University, USA, and at the RIKEN Research Institute in Japan. His work has gained him numerous grants, including an ERC Starting Grant and an ERC Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council. He is a member of various programme advisory boards at renowned research institutions like CERN in Switzerland as well as the Research Center for Nuclear Physics (RCPN) and RIKEN in Japan. In the context of FAIR and GSI Obertelli already has a number of tangible project proposals for the enhancement of the scientific coverage of the R3B and HISPEC experiments which belong to NUSTAR (Nuclear Structure, Astrophysics and Reactions), one of the four experimental pillars of FAIR.

Experimental nuclear physics — research focus

How were chemical elements — the building blocks of our world — originally formed? What are the processes behind their formation? In the context of these fundamental questions in nuclear and atomic physics Alexandre Obertelli studies so‐called exotic nuclei, atomic nuclei with a comparatively disproportionate number of protons or neutrons. They have barely been researched so far. A deeper understanding of their properties could provide insights into the development of elements in the universe because neutron‐rich atomic nuclei play a central role in the formation of heavy elements. In this connection, Obertelli led experimental investigations on the reactions and structures of exotic nuclei which have now become a benchmark in nuclear physics. He has also developed and implemented spectroscopic measuring methods for characterising extremely neutron‐rich isotopes, whose further developments shall be implemented at FAIR. In the framework of his Humboldt Professorship he plans new projects for an enhancement of the R3B experiment to facilitate  new research opportunities with exotic ions beams at FAIR, e.g. the study of neutron-rich hyper nuclei or the exploration of properties of neutron-rich nuclear matter as it occurs in neutron stars.

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