Science and Technology

Técnico researcher wins international prize for best PhD thesis

Marija Vranic, researcher at GoLP/IPFN, Instituto Superior Técnico has been awarded the John Dawson Thesis prize.

Marija Vranic, post-doctoral researcher at GoLP/IPFN, Instituto Superior Técnico has been awarded the John Dawson Thesis prize for her PhD thesis on ‘’Extreme laser-matter interactions: multi-scale PIC modelling from the classical to the QED perspective’’. This prize is awarded on a biannual basis for the best PhD thesis in the area of compact plasma based accelerators driven by ultra-intense laser pulses. The prize was awarded at the Laser and Plasma Accelerators Workshop held at Jeju Island in South Korea, from the 27th of August to the 1st of September.

“It is a great honour to receive this prize”, confesses Marija Vranic. John Dawson was one of the pioneers of computational physics, and the founder of the field of plasma based particle acceleration. “According to his students he was a nice and curious person who was deeply fond of science. He encouraged many young scientists (who are now professors working around the world) to follow his path and contributed to the growth of our research area”, noted the researcher at GoLP/IPFN.

In her PhD thesis Marija Vranic is studying these plasmas using the most powerful computers in the world. Her research is focused on laser interaction with matter at extreme intensities. In presence of such laser fields, the matter ionises and becomes a plasma and the electrons oscillate with such acceleration that quantum processes become critical to understand the dynamics of the system. The researcher unveiled the algorithms that make such simulations possible both in the classical and in the quantum regime, opening the way to optimise these scenarios to accelerate electrons or emit X-rays and gamma-rays.

According to the researcher, her thesis was distinguished because “it combines lasers and plasma with quantum electrodynamics”. “This is a current issue, the interest on this topic is growing and the community is getting bigger. But we are among the first ones”, reaffirms Maridja.

Marija Vranic is a Serbian researcher from Belgrade and she always wanted to study physics. She had a direct contact with the scientific area of lasers and plasma during an IAESTE professional Internship in Northern Ireland. “I was very enthusiastic about the potential application of techniques developed on the interaction of intense lasers with plasma”, she shares. When she had to choose where to do her PhD she had the excellent news that “a high-quality scientific group, in Lisbon, was carrying out a research work that was exactly what I wanted”, says the Técnico researcher.

Her success lies in the passion for what she does but also in the working group: “the work atmosphere is extremely important to a successful PhD thesis”, she says.