Why do we have so much iron and calcium on Earth, compared to elements such as gold and platinum? And how were these elements created in the first place?
Answering these questions involves a deep dive into the fields of nuclear physics and astrophysics. These elements were created in space, long before the Earth was formed, and the field of nuclear astrophysics is concerned among other things in the study of how elements were made and why in exactly these proportions.
There are many astrophysical processes involved in the creation of elements, and among these the s-process and r-process are the main responsible for the formation of those heavier than iron.
Of the two, the r-process definitely is the one the hides the most secrets. Where does it happen, exactly? And how do all the nuclei involved in it actually behave? Together with gravitational waves, neutron star mergers produce a kilonova, this being a big explosion observable in the electromagnetic spectrum. The analysis of such a kilonova originated from a distant neutron star merger and measured on Earth in 2017 confirmed at least one possible site for this mysterious process and helped us answer the question about the "where". However, when it comes to the "how", its microscopic description has to rely on theoretical nuclear models whose predictions vary wildly when describing the exotic isotopes that take part in this process. In turn, this gives us predictions of the final abundances with big uncertainty margins, and is a serious limitation to our modelings and understanding of the r-process.
My PhD project aims at shedding some light onto this matter. With more knowledge and experimental data about these exotic nuclei, it will be possible to improve our theoretical models and describe the r-process in a more precise way. This is a central part in the quest to explain the r-process and, ultimately, how all the elements we are familiar with were made and where they came from.
B.Sc, University of Tromsø: Physics, 2012-2015
M.Sc, NTNU: Astrophysics, 2015-2017
PhD Student, University of Oslo: Nuclear Astrophysics, 2019 -