by Virginia Greco. Published: 09 January 2017

A nice and quiet young researcher who loves physics, sports and cinema.

Domenico Colella, young Italian researcher, has been ALICE run manager from 24 October to 6 November 2016. When I contacted him for an interview, he accepted but also confessed that he was afraid it would happen. This way he made it clear that he is shy. When I meet him, I also discover that he has a good sense of humour.

Domenico studied Physics at the University of Bari, Italy, and got his PhD from the same institute. He joined the ALICE group of his university when he was preparing his Master thesis, for which he carried out a preliminary research on the possibility of studying hypernuclei in ALICE.

When he embarked on his PhD activities, he started working on a topic that was being tackled for the first time in ALICE: the study of the cascades in Pb-Pb collisions, on data taken in the 2010 run. “It was the first study of these particles at the new energy of 2.76 TeV per nucleon pair provided by the LHC,” he explains, “which led to a publication about the measurement of the strangeness enhancement, a phenomenon that had been already observed at lower energies at the SPS and at RHIC.”

Then he kept studying strange particles but in different systems: first in p-p collisions at the same centre-of-mass energies, in order to study the nuclear modification factor (RAA), and lately in p-p collisions at 13 TeV, using data taken at the beginning of 2015.

Currently Domenico is a researcher at the University of Košice, Slovakia, and a project associate at CERN. At the beginning of the LHC’s run 2 he was appointed System Run Coordinator for the SPD (Silicon Pixel Detector) of ALICE. I ask him if it was a career enhancement. “It is a big responsibility; besides this, I don’t know if it can be considered a career enhancement,” he replies chuckling. He explains that this role entails being responsible for the detector data taking, in particular making sure that it is operational during the run and managing the development of the offline procedures. This means being on call during the whole period of data taking.

On top of this, he has been run manager for two weeks last autumn. “The run manager has to transmit the decisions taken by the run coordinators – who are in contact with the machine coordination and the ALICE physics coordination - to the three crews that alternate along the day and be sure that all the operations are correctly performed,” Colella comments; “he or she also convenes a daily meeting, in which a responsible of each system or sub-detector reports on the activities and problems, if there was any, of the day.”

I ask him about his experience on this capacity. “I liked it,” he states, “as a run manager you have the occasion to see aspects of data taking that are not necessarily evident to somebody who only does data analysis. You can understand how it works, what the reasons are that lead to choosing a specific configuration of trigger, why a sub-detector is included or excluded in some run. “

When he is not too busy working on the Silicon Pixel Detector and in data taking, Domenico takes part in data analysis, continuing along the path chosen during the PhD. “Now we are studying strangeness enhancement in Pb-Pb collisions at 5 TeV on data taken in 2015,” he explains. “In the last years we have studied the same observable also in p-p and p-Pb collisions and surprisingly we have found that it shows an increasing trend as a function of the charged track density, as observed in Pb-Pb collisions. Here the interpretation of the phenomenon was connected to the idea that the QGP is formed in central Pb-Pb collisions, while it is not in p-p or peripheral Pb-Pb collisions. Now this description needs to be revised to account for what observed in high track multiplicity p-p events“.

What about the future? Domenico enjoys his job and he would like to stay in research: “There is a job proposal on the ground”, he admits, “but I don’t know yet if it will become reality. I may be involved in the upgrade of the ITS with the University of Bari, which is one of the institutes that have to produce and test the modules.” The perspective of going back to his home town and the warm weather of the south of Italy appeals to Domenico, but it is not his priority, “When choosing a job I give more importance to the project. In the end, I am fine here”.

When he is in Bari he likes biking, playing soccer, sailing and going to the cinema. When I ask him about his spare time here, he laughs and says: “I don’t have much spare time at the moment and this is having repercussions on my physical shape. Luckily I don’t care much about my shape.”