by Virginia Greco. Published: 06 October 2016

ALICE’s Spokesperson Paolo Giubellino, after leaving the stage to Federico Antinori at the end of this year, will be heading towards a new challenge. He has been appointed scientific managing director of the GSI research centre in Darmstadt, Germany, and of the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research in Europe (FAIR), the International Laboratory presently under construction next to GSI.

Giubellino, who was elected by the GSI Supervisory Board and by the FAIR Council, will take up his new position on January 1, 2017, but he is already frequently travelling to Darmstadt to meet the representatives of the various research groups. “It is very exciting, it is going to be a fantastic adventure,” he commented when we asked about his reaction to the news, “in the world of nuclear physics this is the largest new project already going through the implementation phase”.

GSI is a large-scale accelerator facility for heavy ions that achieved very important results in its almost fifty years of history, such as the discovery of six new elements and the employment of heavy ion beams for cancer therapy since 1997. It also started, together with LBL Berkeley, the now world-wide extended research programme with relativistic nuclear collisions – which led to key results on hot and dense matter from the SIS18, CERN-SPS and CERN-LHC accelerators.

FAIR will be a sophisticated accelerator complex able to deliver high-energy beams of antiprotons and ions of unprecedented intensities and quality, to be employed in groundbreaking experiments. The existing GSI facility is being upgraded and, together with a new proton linear accelerator, will serve as pre-accelerator and injector for the new complex. A new synchrotron will further accelerate protons and heavier ions, which in turn will be used to create secondary beams of antiprotons and stable or radioactive ions. These secondary beams may be used directly or stored in storage rings.

“Experiments using the upgraded GSI facility will start running already in 2018, while the new accelerators will enter into functionality -in subsequent stages- between 2020 and 2024”, Giubellino explains. He already knows GSI very well, since their heavy-ion group, together with those of neighbouring TU Darmstadt, Frankfurt and Heidelberg, represent a very important component of the ALICE collaboration.

 “But extreme density nuclear matter is only one of the pillars of GSI,” Giubellino highlights, “the research programme is very rich and diverse, spanning medical physics, material science, plasma physics, nuclear physics and hadron physics. In all of them the laboratory will be making top level science at the world level.

The new facility will allow launching many new projects that can take advantage of the unique characteristics -in terms of intensity, quality, energy and power- of the beam that will be provided. “There are many questions to be answered where FAIR can play a fundamental role,” Giubellino adds, “for example, we know heavy elements that are present in nature are created in in exotic astrophysical environment with extreme densities like neutron star mergers, but we still do not understand exactly how this happens: thus, we hope to gain important insight into these processes that make the world the way we know it.”

At present GSI is an expanding laboratory that will be able to push research in many fields, as well as attract young researchers and collaborators at an international level.

A big challenge is waiting for the soon-former-Spokesperson of ALICE, but “I have always loved challenges”, Giubellino comments. Hence, there is nothing left to do but addressing to him our best wishes for his new role at GSI.