- Ph.D. PhysicsUniversity of Notre Dame
Erika recently earned her Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Notre Dame, studying both Theoretical Nuclear Astrophysics with Prof. Rebecca Surman and Galactic Archaeology with Prof. Timothy Beers. Her research interests involve the formation of the heavy elements, with a particular focus on the creation of actinides (thorium and uranium) in the Universe. She uses nucleosynthesis simulations to investigate how elements are made through rapid neutron-capture (the r-process) in sites like neutron star mergers. In addition, Erika ties these nucleosynthesis simulations to observables such as kilonova light curves from merger events. She also searches for other, indirect observational signatures of r-process nucleosynthesis through metal-poor stars that may be enriched with elements produced by the r-process. These observations are essential to understand past r-process sites by placing time limits and yield constraints on the explosive events that preceded the formation of these enriched stars. Her advisor is Richard O'Shaughnessy.