Prof. Marialuisa Aliotta

Personal Chair in Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics
Research Theme:
Particle and Nuclear Physics
Research Group:
Nuclear Physics
Email address:
Telephone number:
+44 (0)131 650 5288
School of Physics and Astronomy, James Clerk Maxwell Building, Peter Guthrie Tait Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3FD, United Kingdom

Research interests

My research interests focus Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics, specifically on the laboratory investigation of nuclear reactions that occur in stars and govern their lifetimes and evolution. I am interested in exploring the processes that account for the synthesis of the chemical elements both in quiescent stars like our sun and in explosive scenarios like novae, supernovae and X-ray bursts.

Quiescent stellar evolution involves reactions mainly between stable nuclei at energies well below the Coulomb barrier of the interacting species. Their experimental investigation in a terrestrial laboratory is severely hampered by the background induced by the cosmic rays in the detection devices. Thus, a unique approach consists in carrying out measurements underground, where the background induced by cosmic rays is suppressed by orders of magnitude. At present, the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA) located under the Gran Sasso massif in Italy remains the only operational underground nuclear astrophysics laboratory worldwide. The LUNA collaboration, of which I am a member since 2010, has pioneered reaction cross-section measurements at ultra-low energies over the last two decades.

I am a member of the LUNA Collaboration Board and the PI of the Edinburgh team within LUNA. Other key collaborations focus on the direct study of low energy carbon fusion reactions at CIRCE (Caserta, Italy) and on the indirect investigations of key nuclear reactions with the Trojan Horse Method (Catania, Italy).

In contrast to quiescent stages of stellar evolution, explosive scenarios in astrophysics are triggered by nuclear reactions mostly between unstable nuclei, which do not normally exist on earth. Thus, experiments can only be performed at Radioactive Ion Beam facilities where such nuclei can be produced and accelerated at the required energies. Beam time at these facilities is obtained through an international competitive process. My interests in this area lay in the study of key nuclear reactions in X-ray bursts. I was the spokesperson for a time-reversal study of a key breakout reaction at TRIUMF (Canada), where I have led an international collaboration between Edinburgh, York and TRIUMF. For similar studies, I have submitted successful proposals and Letters of Intent at major international facilities, such as TRIUMF, GANIL, and CERN. Many of the proposed experiments await the development of the required radioactive beams with sufficient intensities for the proposed studies.

I am also a member of the ISOL-SRS collaboration, which aims to study nuclear reactions of astrophysical relevance using a storage ring at HIE-ISOLDE, CERN.

I am a member of the STFC Project Peer Review Panel (until 2011) and serves on the Sifting Panel for the STFC Rutherford Fellowships (since 2011). I regularly act as a referee for major physics journals and was a reviewer for large grant applications to international funding bodies (MIUR, NSERC, Helmoltzt Gesellschaft). I was co-Director of the UK Nuclear Physics Summer School (2011) and have been a member of the Scientific Committee for the European Summer School on Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics since 2010. In 2015, she will co-chair the VII International Conference Nuclear Physics in Astrophysics.


I love teaching and I am passionate about it. Over the years, I have contributed both to the undergraduate and graduate teaching programme of the School, and to its administration. A list of the courses I have been teaching is given below.

Undergraduate Teaching

  • Nuclear Physics (Lecturer, Workshop Leader and Course Organiser)
  • Subatomic Physics (Lecturer)
  • Physics 1A (Lecturer and Workshop Leader)
  • Data Analysis (Tutor)
  • Problem Solving in Physics (Tutor)
  • Physics 1B Laboratory (Demonstrator)
  • Practical Physics Laboratory (Laboratory Class Leader and Demonstrator)

Postgraduate Teaching

Delivered within SUPA

  • Hands on Writing: How to Master Academic Writing in the Sciences (Course Creator and Workshop Facilitator)
  • Advanced Topics in Nuclear Astrophysics (Lecturer)

I am a keen and supportive supervisor. My enthusiasm for teaching and communicating is reflected in the many invitations I receive to speak at international summer schoolsconferences and public events.

I was an elected member of the School's Teaching Committee (2007-2011), a member of the SUPA Graduate School Management Committee (2006-2010), and of the School's Graduate Studies Committee (2005-2012). 

Over the years I have taken up roled of increased responsibility also in the administrative runnign of the School. Amongst my main roles, I chaired the Forward Look Task Force (2010) and have devised and proposed a new framework for our degree programmes that allows for a greated flexibility and improved students experience. The new framework is currently being rolled out. In my capacity as the School's International Exchange Officer (2009-2011) I have established two new ERASMUS exchange agreements, with the Albert-Ludwigs Universitaet Freiburg and with the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (Germany).

Research outputs

  1. Improved astrophysical rate for the 18O(p,)15N reaction by underground measurements DOI
    Carlo Bruno, Marialuisa Aliotta, P Descouvemont, A. Best, Thomas Davinson, D. Bemmerer, A. Boeltzig, C. Broggini, Antonio Caciolli, F. Cavanna et al., Physics Letters B (2019)
  2. Direct Capture Cross Section and the Ep=71 and 105 keV Resonances in the Ne 22 (p,γ) Na 23 Reaction DOI
    (LUNA Collaboration), F. Ferraro, M. P. Takács, D. Piatti, F. Cavanna, R. Depalo, M. Aliotta, D. Bemmerer, A. Best, A. Boeltzig et al., Physical Review Letters, 121, 17 (2018)
  3. Development of a two-stage detection array for low-energy light charged-particles in nuclear astrophysics applications DOI
    Marialuisa Aliotta, M Romoli, L. Morales-Gallegos, Carlo G. Bruno, R. Buompane, A. D'Onofrio, Thomas Davinson, M. De Cesare, Di Leva Antonino and P. Di Meo, European Physical Journal A: Hadrons and Nuclei, 54 (2018)
  4. Reduction of deuterium content in carbon targets for 12C+12C reaction studies of astrophysical interest DOI
    Marialuisa Aliotta, European Physical Journal A: Hadrons and Nuclei, 54 (2018)
  5. Effect of beam energy straggling on resonant yield in thin gas targets: The cases 22Ne(p, γ)23Na and 14N(p, γ)15O DOI
    D. Bemmerer, F. Cavanna, R. Depalo, M. Aliotta, M. Anders, A. Boeltzig, C. Broggini, C. Bruno, A. Caciolli, Thomas Chillery et al., Europhysics Letters (2018)
  6. Erratum DOI
    The LUNA Collaboration, F. Cavanna, R. Depalo, M. Aliotta, M. Anders, D. Bemmerer, A. Best, A. Boeltzig, C. Broggini, C. G. Bruno et al., Physical Review Letters, 120, 23 (2018)
  7. Mastering Academic Writing in the Sciences
    Marialuisa Aliotta, A Step-by-Step Guide (2018)
  8. A high-efficiency gas target setup for underground experiments, and redetermination of the branching ratio of the 189.5 keV 22Ne(p, γ)23Na resonance DOI
    F. Ferraro, M. P. Takács, D. Piatti, V. Mossa, M. Aliotta, D. Bemmerer, A. Best, A. Boeltzig, C. Broggini, C. G. Bruno et al., European Physical Journal A: Hadrons and Nuclei, 54, 3 (2018)
  9. Improved background suppression for radiative capture reactions at LUNA with HPGe and BGO detectors DOI
    A. Boeltzig, A. Best, G. Imbriani, M. Junker, M. Aliotta, D. Bemmerer, C. Broggini, C. G. Bruno, R. Buompane, Antonio Caciolli et al., Journal of Physics G - Nuclear and Particle Physics, 45, 2 (2018)
  10. The impact of the revised 17O(p,α)14N reaction rate on 17O stellar abundances and yields DOI
    O. Straniero, C. G. Bruno, M. Aliotta, A. Best, A. Boeltzig, D. Bemmerer, C. Broggini, A. Caciolli, F. Cavanna, G. F. Ciani et al., Astronomy & Astrophysics, 598 (2017)
Last updated: 19 Feb 2018 at 21:11