19 February 2015

Vici grant for subatomic physicist André Mischke

André Mischke

NWO has awarded subatomic physicist Dr. André Mischke a Vici grant of 1.5 million Euros to allow him to conduct a five-year research programme and to expand his research group. Of the 216 proposals submitted, only 36 were honoured with grants. Dr. Mischke conducts research into the characteristics of the fundamental matter that was created shortly after the big bang at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Physicists suspect that for a few millionths of a second after the big bang, the universe consisted of quark-gluon plasma, an extremely hot and dense medium of elementary particles. Over the past few years, scientists at the LHC, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, have been successful in producing this quark-gluon plasma. Experimental physicists at Utrecht University and other institutions use the purpose-built ALICE detector to study the characteristics of this ‘primordial matter’. 

Beauty quarks

The goal of Mischke’s Vici research proposal is to determine the strength of the interaction between quarks and gluons in the quark-gluon plasma (QGP). Scientists have limited knowledge about this important characteristic of the QGP.

Mischke will open a new field of research by conducting the first measurements of the interaction between ‘beauty quarks’ and the quark-gluon plasma.  Until now, the only research on quarks had been on ‘light’ and ‘charm’ quarks.

Due to their relatively high mass (4-5 times heavier than protons), beauty quarks have a much higher penetrating power compared to light quarks. They thus provide a new diagnostic probe to determine the interaction strength between the quarks and gluons in the plasma.

Improving the detection of breast cancer

Mischke (1972) studied physics and mathematics at the Philipps University of Marburg, and earned his PhD at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. After a post-doc position in Darmstadt and Nikhef in Amsterdam, as well as a few research visits in the United States and Switzerland, he began at Utrecht University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy as a Veni recipient. There, he was awarded a Vidi grant in 2008, and an ERC Starting/Consolidator Grant in 2009. Last year he also received an ERC Proof of Concept grant for his proposal for using technology from the field of particle physics to improve the detection of breast cancer. Mischke is a member of the Young Academy of Europe since 2012 and served as its first President from 2012-2014.

More information

The ALICE project using the LHC at CERN
News article about improving the detection of breast cancer using technology from the field of particle physics (including video and link to radio interview)


Monica van der Garde, Press Spokesperson, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, 06 13 66 14 38, m.vandergarde@uu.nl.