Filomena Nunes

Professor of Physics


Education and training

  • Engenharia Fisica Technologica, Instituto Superior Tecnico Lisboa, 1992
  • PhD, Theoretical Physics, University of Surrey, England, 1995


Unstable nuclei are mostly studied through reactions because they decay back to stability, often lasting less than a few seconds. Reaction theory makes the critical connection between experiments such as the ones to be performed at FRIB and nuclear properties or astrophysics.

Nuclei are many body systems of large complexity. Describing a reaction while retaining all the complexity of the projectile and target nuclei would be a daunting task. Fortunately, to describe many direct reactions, only a few structure degrees of freedom are necessary. Thus, we develop simplified few-body models that retain the important features.

Another important line of research in my group is the use of Bayesian statistical tools to quantify the uncertainty on our predictions and help in experimental design. The few-body methods we use rely on effective potentials between constituents that are not well known. The uncertainties coming from these effective potentials need to be quantified.


My interest in physics started in middle school. I had questions about everything and initially thought I would be an engineer. I did my undergraduate in Engineering in Lisbon but realized theory was my real passion. I moved to England for a PhD in Theoretical Physics. In research, I started out with halo nuclei and modeling their properties. That lead to the theory for nuclear reactions of unstable nuclei and the connections to astrophysics. That lead to uncertainty quantification, Bayesian statistics, experimental design...

How students can contribute as part of my research team

I enjoy developing new theory, working on equations, and considering their implementation into code. It is very appealing to me that we are moving nuclear theory toward a more fundamental formulation, and thus making the theory more predictive, with known uncertainties. Equally fun is being able to confront those predictions with experimental data so we can learn from the data. To me it is stimulating to be at the place where all the action takes place! But the most important thing for me is the interaction with my students. It is really amazing to see them absorb so much in a few years and mature into scientists and then go do great things!

If you have an interest in joining my group, please contact me. Usually I develop a starting project that serves as a reaction theory introduction but also allows us to get to know each other better before jumping into a full-fleshed PhD project.

Scientific publications