by Virginia Greco. Published: 02 November 2016

Ph.D. student Elisa Meninno won a prize for her poster on "Studies of Λc production in pp and p-Pb collisions with ALICE at the LHC", which she presented at the “XII Quark Confinement and the Hadron Spectrum” Conference, held in Thessaloniki (Greece), 28 August-3 September 2016.


Elisa Meninno during her talk at the "XIIth Quark Confinement and the hadron Spectrum" Conference

“Appreciated for its clarity and content among the 40 submitted to the conference” – as the certificate reads – the poster that Ph.D. student Elisa Meninno presented at the “XII Quark Confinement and the Hadron Spectrum” Conference earned her a prize and the possibility to give a talk on her research activity.

Elisa is in her third year of doctoral studies in physics at the University of Salerno, Italy, and her contract requires that she spends one year abroad, so she had the opportunity to come and work at CERN in ALICE. She moved to Geneva in January, but was not new to the experiment, since she has been a member for a few years already, neither to the laboratory, which she had visited sometimes in the past.

When I meet her for the interview, I find a nice and enthusiastic person, who is enjoying what she is doing. “I’m very happy to be here at CERN”, she comments, “it is a great opportunity for my career, but it is also a fantastic personal experience, since I have the possibility to meet people from so many different countries and become richer as a person. It is also good for my English, as well as for my French, since I live in Geneva in the house of a lady who doesn’t speak any English or Italian” (she laughs).

Elisa entered the heavy flavour analysis group of ALICE when she was working on her Master’s thesis and then continued on the same path in the Ph.D. But she hasn’t always known that she wanted to become an experimentalist. “Actually, for my Bachelor’s degree I developed a thesis in theoretical physics, working on Feynman's formulation of quantum mechanics using the so-called ‘path integral’”, she explains, “I didn’t know yet what I liked most, but I made up my mind later – during the graduate studies-, when I attended the sub-nuclear physics laboratory course of Prof. Salvatore De Pasquale, who is now my supervisor for the Ph.D.”

In ALICE Elisa in working on the study of the lambda baryon, in particular the charmed lambda (Λc), through the analysis of one of its decay channels: a charmed lambda decaying into a proton and a kaon K0s (K zero short). This kaon in turn decays into two pions, so in the data she looks for the signature of a proton and two pions. Elisa and her colleagues are working on the data taken in the run 1 of the LHC in p-p and p-Pb collisions.

“At the moment, we cannot detect the decay of Λc in Pb-Pb collisions because the present Inner Tracking System (ITS) of ALICE has limitations on the resolution of the impact parameter”; Elisa explains, “This resolution is lower than the decay length of the Λc, so that we cannot know with sufficient precision where the particle decays. In Pb-Pb collisions the background is so high that we are not able to reconstruct the Λc decay we want to study, which on the contrary has a very low branching ratio.”

“But the upgrade of the ITS, foreseen for 2019-2020, during the long shut down LS2”, she adds, “will allow studies of this type of decay in Pb-Pb collisions too, thus the measurement of the baryon/meson ratio (Λc/D).”

To perform these measurements, Elisa and her colleagues rely on the high efficiency of the ALICE detector in identifying particles. In particular, the key components are the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) and the Time-of-Flight detector (ToF).

Satisfied for the success of her poster and presentation at the conference, Elisa is now focusing on writing her doctoral thesis. She doesn’t know yet what is going to be next, but she is determined to stay in the academic field and to spend some more time outside her country, either at CERN or in some other European Institution.

She is not only a brilliant physicist, but also a musician and a sport lover. She can play the piano and the accordion and when she was in Italy she used to sing in an a-cappella group. In Geneva she hasn’t found yet a group to play and sing, but she does spend time biking, her favourite sport. When she wants to relax, she jumps on her bike and rides away.