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Meet the Finalists of the 2023 ISSNAF Young Investigator INFN Bruno Touschek Award


Established in 2022 by Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, this award honors the memory of Prof. Bruno Touschek for his pioneering work in the fields of elementary particle physics and particle accelerators. It recognizes contributions in the fields of fundamental interactions of matter, such as elementary particle physics, nuclear physics, cosmology and the physics of particle beams.


Warmest congratulations to the outstanding finalists of the 2023 edition: Sofia Fatigoni, Simone Mazza, and Chiara Trovatello.


Watch the finalists present their cutting-edge research at the Symposium on Oct 19, 2023 to the Jury co-chaired by Prof. Giorgio Gratta, Stanford University, and Prof. Patrizia Rossi, Jefferson Laboratory. https://youtu.be/PPJPVC3vAFw?si=YJ6Iz83e8cLPU0Xp

The winner will be announced at ISSNAF 2023 Annual Event in Washington DC on November 8.


Sofia Fatigoni

I was born in Perugia (Italy) in 1993, where I studied at the Liceo Classico A.Mariotti. During those years, despite the few monthly hours of Physics, I spent most of my time building batteries and circuits, which are conserved in the school museum. In 2012 I moved to Rome to study at La Sapienza. I studied Physics, for my bachelor degree, and Astrophysics for my master degree. In 2017 I moved to Vancouver for my PhD at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and started working on the BICEP Array telescope, designing part of the hardware. During these years I have also started my own data analysis project, and invented a new method to clean our Cosmological data from atmospheric noise, which is one of the main challenges for high precision ground experiments. As part of the BICEP Array hardware team, that is the group of people that designed and built the receivers, I took part in two Antarctic missions to deploy these receivers at the South Pole. Since 2022 I am a Postdoctoral Scholar at Caltech, where I keep on working on BICEP Array, but also on new technology development for the next generation of Cosmic Microwave Background telescopes.


Research focus

I am keen on constraining Cosmological inflation as by doing this we are trying to answer the most profound human questions: where do we come from? and how did the Universe begin? I have been part of this community for several years now, but I am still very fascinated by the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and think we still have a lot to learn from this. My dream is launching a CMB satellite to measure the large-scale polarisation that we cannot measure from the ground. This would result in a huge step forward in our understanding of cosmological inflation.


About Sofia

Here are some curiosities about me. I have been very interested in Space and Physics in general since I was a child. When I was five I wanted to be an Astronaut, of course. Since 2012 Physics is my job but also my favourite hobby. My favourite book is the Feynman Lectures on Physics. My favourite movie is a 2005 Stephen Hawking biography by BBC, in which Penzias and Wilson appear many times to talk about how they discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background. I have watched this movie more than 30 times. I also love running and start every morning with a run, it doesn't matter if I am in California or at the South Pole. Last year I got second place in the 'Run Around the World', which is a traditional Christmas race at the South Pole during which participants run through all the time zones, literally all around the World. I am supposed to leave for my third South Pole mission in a few months.


Simone Mazza

I'm an assistant project scientist at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). My current physics research plan is mainly focused on the study of lepton flavor universality by the observation of rare pion decays, I’m very involved in an emerging pion decay experiment, the PIONEER experiment, that will run at the PiE-5 pion beamline at the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI). For PIONEER, I’m developing the high granularity active target (ATAR). I'm also very interested in the physics at the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) that is going to be built at Brookhaven National Laboratories (BNL). For the EPIC detector at EIC I'm leading the silicon sensor development for the timing layer at UCSC. My expertise is silicon sensors and, in particular, ultra-fast silicon sensors known as low gain avalanche detectors (LGADs) that allow a timing resolution per hit down to 20 ps. In my free time, I love surfing and mountain biking in the beautiful Santa Cruz County.


Research focus

We are currently in a period in time where there's no clear path forward in the field of particle physics. After the discovery of the Higgs boson the Standard Model is apparently complete. However, many cracks are starting to appear in the Standard Model (e.g. the recent g-2 result). Therefore, it is imperative for the physics community to push even more for new horizons. This effort must include both large-scale experiments (like Higgs factories or the FCC-hh) and small-scale experiments (like PIONEER). The development of crucial technology is imperative in both categories of experiment. My research is focused on discovering what’s beyond the Standard Model; to enable this effort I’m developing timing sensors to achieve full 4D (x,y,z,t) tracking. I’m mostly an expert in Low Gain Avalanche Detectors (LGADs), which are thin silicon detectors with modest internal gain with extremely good time resolution (down to <20ps). PIONEER, in which I’m heavily involved, is a next-generation experiment to measure the charged-pion branching ratio to electrons vs. muons and the pion beta decay with an order of magnitude improvement in precision. I’m positive that PIONEER will be a small experiment with a big impact.


About Simone

During my PhD (in Milan and at CERN) I committed myself to the search for extra dimensions and Higgs from 2HDM models. Afterwards, I moved on to more hardware-oriented projects at the University of California Santa Cruz. I then fell in love with the northern California environment, comprehending redwood forests, steep cliffs, mountains and ocean as far as the eye can see. I decided to start a family here and my favorite pastime is to show these natural wonders to my three-year-old son by kayaking in the bay or backpacking in the Sierras.


The worst cultural shock of working in a U.S. laboratory I had is realizing that I need two sets of Allen keys (one metric and one imperial) and they are not interchangeable.


Chiara Trovatello

Born and raised in Siracusa, Italy, Chiara Trovatello moved to Milan, Italy, at the age of 18 for her studies at Politecnico di Milano (Bachelor and Master of Science in Engineering Physics, and Ph.D. in Physics). During her doctoral studies, Chiara visited the University of Wurzburg. Additionally, she was awarded a Marie Curie RISE Fellowship to visit Columbia University. After her Ph.D. Chiara returned to Columbia as a Postdoc, and was awarded the Couillaud Prize by the Optica Foundation and Coherent for her contributions in the field of ultrafast optics with 2D materials. This year, Chiara received the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship to conduct independent research at Columbia University, with the goal of developing and characterizing ultracompact platforms for quantum optics based on layered semiconductors. Chiara has delivered >30 invited talks and contributed talks at leading conferences and institutions, has published >25 scientific papers including several in the highest-impact journals in the field, and she has been part of the organizing committee of international conferences, e.g., MRS, CLEO.


Chiara is the Founder and the former President of the Optica Chapter of Milan. Within the Chapter and beyond, Chiara passionately advocates for open science, ethical research, equal representation and opportunities in STEM.


Research focus

Lasers have revolutionized our daily life. From optical fibers to bar-code readers, to entangled photon pairs, which are the qubits in our quantum computers, everything relies on laser light. To manipulate light, we use nonlinear optics – a tool that allows us to perform mathematical operations with photons. For instance, in second harmonic generation, two identical photons sum to create one photon at double the energy. Conversely, in spontaneous parametric down-conversion, one high-energy photon annihilates into two lower-energy photons, i.e., an entangled photon pair. Typical crystals used to generate nonlinear processes have moderate nonlinear responses, but can achieve high conversion efficiencies due to their large thickness (millimeters to centimeters). However, such macroscopic thickness does not easily lend itself to on-chip integration, a critical limitation for most future applications. My research is introducing a new class of layered semiconductors, which possess 10-100x larger nonlinearity than standard bulk crystals, and promise to achieve similar efficiencies within micron thicknesses. Such ultra-compact entangled photon sources will enable next-generation integrated quantum optics, impacting the future of secure quantum communication. Finally, quantum spectroscopy with miniaturized entangled-photon sources will enable the investigation of fundamental mechanisms, like electron-electron interactions, at the single-photon limit, i.e., beyond the physics of ensembles.


About Chiara

The presidency of the Optica Chapter has profoundly impacted my professional and personal growth, shaping me into a better mentor and leader, able to craft both short- and long-term visions. From 8 members at its foundation, the Chapter now counts among its ranks more than 25 passionate young researchers. Though I left Milano a few years ago, I take pride in having assembled a positive and highly productive team, who works tightly together with shared vision. My motivation, my perseverance, and my curiosity are the driving forces behind my research, and have inspired the people who have worked alongside me.


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