by Virginia Greco. Published: 12 July 2018

At Quark Matter 2018, Barbara Antonina Trzeciak, a postdoc at the University of Utrecht, was assigned the Elsevier Young Scientist Award for the best experimental talk, ex eaquo with Michael Knichel. We talked with her to know more about her career path and research activities.

When I received the email announcing that I was selected for this award, my first reaction was surprise: I was really not expecting it. Then, of course, I felt very honoured and happy” recounts Barbara Trzeciak, who was assigned the Elsevier Young Scientist Award for the best experimental talk at Quark Matter 2018, ex aequo with Michael Knichel. She reported on ‘Measurements of heavy-flavour correlations and jets with ALICE at the LHC’.

Barbara studied Physics at the Warsaw University of Technology (WUT), in Poland, and she entered the high energy nuclear physics field during her Master’s thesis, which was focused on the study of the J/psi production in pp collisions with the STAR experiment at RHIC. She continued working on this topic during her PhD, which she did at the same University, and, in particular, she realized the first J/psi polarization measurement at STAR, under the supervision of Grazyna Odyniec of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (US). After defending her PhD thesis in 2013, she moved to the Czech Technical University in Prague thanks to a European Project grant. There, she could carry on her research on the same topic and perform the J/psi polarization measurement at higher energy, extending the analysis to more polarization parameters and reference frames.

In October 2015, when the European Project in which she was enrolled reached an end, Barbara joined the ALICE experiment with the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, her present institution. She entered the heavy-flavour physics group led by Andre Mischke and started to work on the data analysis that eventually earned her the Elsevier Young Scientist Award. “It was a challenge, because I changed at the same time experiment, institution and research topic” comments Barbara. “I needed some time to get used: ALICE is bigger than STAR and has a much more hierarchical structure; in addition, the analysis approval procedure is quite long and a bit stressful. Now I am familiar with the experiment and all the procedures, so I feel more comfortable.

On the other hand, she quickly assimilated in her group at the Utrecht University: “I collaborate very well with my colleagues and we are a big group, so I am not isolated even though most of the time I am not physically at CERN,” she explains.

Barbara’s research is at the moment focused on studies of D-tagged jets and she is coordinating the ALICE heavy-flavour correlations and jets group. 

She will work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Utrecht University for another year, after which she might move again. “I still don’t know what I will do afterwards, it depends on the opportunities that come about. Certainly, I would like to stay in this field and maybe taking more responsibilities in the experiment or in the Institution where I will be.”

Changing experiment again is not completely out of discussion, but her most natural choice would be to keep working in ALICE or within a heavy-ion experiment. “I have been in nuclear physics since I started my research activities, when I was still a Master student, and I really enjoy this field” she comments. “I particularly appreciate the fact that we are continuously measuring new things and understanding better Quark-Gluon Plasma; it is not about refining measurements already performed in the past, which, although important, can be a bit boring. Here, somehow everything is new.

In her spare time, Barbara likes riding her bike – “something that I started practising every day since I live in The Netherlands” –, reading books and going to the cinema.