The PhD is the highest academic degree that universities award. For someone to receive this degree with the additional honor ‘cum laude’ is rare; what’s even more rare is for this to happen twice within one month in a single institute. September was such a special month: UvA-IoP physicists Alessio Ciamei and Richard Bartels both received their cum laude PhD degree.
The two cum laudes were awarded for physics at very different scales: Ciamei studied the physics of ultracold molecules, whereas Bartels’ research concerned the dark matter that fills the entire universe.
Alessio Ciamei successfully defended his PhD thesis ‘Taming Ultracold RbSr and Sr2’ on 6 September. In the research discussed in the thesis, Ciamei investigated the physics of ultracold molecules – where ‘ultracold’ means a millionth of a degree above absolute zero temperature, more than 273 degrees below zero on the Celsius scale. Ciamei in particular created ultracold strontium molecules (Sr2) with high efficiency and helped develop methods to create ultracold rubidium-strontium molecules (RbSr). The latter possess quantum mechanical properties that ultracold molecules investigated so far do not have, making them very useful to study many-body physics or state-controlled chemistry. “Alessio is very talented in systematically analyzing and overcoming any challenge he is confronted with, be it in the lab or in theoretical considerations. He is digging deeper into problems than I’ve witnessed with any other of the PhD students I worked with,” said Ciamei’s supervisor, prof. Florian Schreck.
Richard Bartels’ PhD thesis is titled ‘All the light we cannot see’. In his thesis, Bartels describes his search for new astrophysical signatures that would prove that the elusive dark matter – the cause of extra gravity in the universe for which astronomers don’t see a source in their telescopes – is made up of particles whose properties can be measured. Bartels focused on signatures from the hypothetical (but theoretically well motivated) self-annihilation of dark matter particles, which could give rise to gamma-ray radiation that is detectable in astronomical observations. “Richard is by now very well known in Europe and in the international community,” said dr. Christoph Weniger, Bartels’ supervisor. “Among the students I have interacted with so far, he belongs clearly to the top few percent.” Bartels successfully defended his thesis on 28 September.