Dr. Ragandeep Singh Sidhu is enthusiastic about storage ring physics. He just finished his Ph.D. from the Heidelberg University, for which he studied the properties of fully-stripped (with no electron) 205-Thallium nuclei at the Experimental Storage Ring ESR at GSI/FAIR. The nuclei’s properties unraveled secrets about the Sun’s luminosity and the abundance of chemical elements in the universe. In the future, he will continue to work with the storage rings and plans experiments at CRYRING for the University of Edinburgh where he starts his Postdoc soon. Moreover, Dr. Sidhu is a guest scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik and at GSI/FAIR. But why did he decide for Germany and GSI/FAIR in the first place?
Why did you decide to do your Ph.D. in Germany?
From my point of view, Germany is very strong when it comes to fundamental research. If you look at the number of Max Planck Institutes, Helmholtz Centers and Nobel Prizes, this becomes quite clear. Four years ago, I heard about the Ph.D. position at GSI/FAIR and Heidelberg University through my professor in India. For me, this was a unique opportunity. In my view, studying at Heidelberg University is better than studying at MIT – it’s the best possible education, but without the high tuition fees. Moreover, Heidelberg University is listed among the top 50 universities in the world, making it highly prestigious. The fact that I was allowed to do my doctorate there is a great honor for me.
What role did GSI/FAIR play in your decision?
I heard a lot about GSI and FAIR during my studies at Panjab University. Our professors talked about the experiments here, I read many scientific papers by GSI/FAIR authors. The FAIR project is also very popular in India as we are also involved in it. GSI/FAIR is simply one of the largest and most important research centers in nuclear physics. The experiments that can be done here are not possible anywhere else in the world.
What was your Ph.D. thesis about that you wrote at the Experimental Storage Ring ESR?
Together with the research group of Prof. Dr. Yuri A. Litvinov and Prof. Dr. Klaus Blaum, we studied the bound beta decay of “naked” 205-thallium ions – an experiment that nuclear physicists have wanted to do for more than 30 years as it answers many important questions. With the accelerator advancement and the unique facility available at GSI, the experiment was conducted last year during the corona pandemic. On one hand, the experimental measurement reveals the secrets about the abundance of the elements in the universe. On the other hand, the measurement is central to the study of the solar neutrino flux, which aims to determine the average luminosity of the Sun over the last four million years.
What do you like most about your work?
I think it is fascinating because we are discovering new physics. I love the challenge and it’s great to follow new ideas. Apart from that, working with unique storage rings like the ESR and CRYRING is very special. I was also a two-time DAAD visiting scientist at the CSRe (Cooler Storage Ring experimental) storage ring in Lanzhou, China.
Starting in October, you will be a postdoc at the University of Edinburgh and will be in charge of the detector CARME (The CRYRING Array for Reaction Measurements), an in-kind contribution to FAIR, which is set up at CRYRING. What is special about CARME?
The detector chamber is installed directly in the ultra-high vacuum of the CRYRING storage ring. By this project, we aim to study different nuclear astrophysics reactions. Next year and the year after we are planning several experiments with CARME. As an example, we aim to study the reactions of phosphorus nuclei with a hydrogen target to address several astrophysical questions. For me, this is a great task: I can contribute and expand my expertise on storage rings by coming to GSI/FAIR for a week every two months. At the same time, new challenges await me at the University of Edinburgh with the LUNA (Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Physics) project. Thanks to the GET_INvolved program of GSI/FAIR these collaborations are possible.
What are you looking forward to regarding your move to the UK?
I am looking forward to the new opportunities. I will be able to expand my network as I will also be going to Gran Sasso in Italy for the LUNA project. I will also be associated with the ISOLDE CERN, TRIUMF research center in Canada, so I’m sure I will learn a lot of new things.
Looking back, for what reasons – besides the scientific opportunities – would you recommend other young scientists to come to GSI/FAIR?
It is very international here, also because of the many GET_INvolved students. It’s great to meet a lot of people this way! I like the weather here and I enjoy going to Frankfurt and visiting friends there. Also, the cooperation with my supervisors Prof. Yuri Litvinov and Prof. Klaus Blaum is very good. They have always motivated me and have fostered many new ideas. That is a great support! I have the feeling that young scientists are really supported here.
Thank you for the interview and all the best for you!