Member of FRIB user community earns 2021 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award

Sofia Quaglioni, a physicist and group leader in the Nuclear Data and Theory group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), has been named as a winner of the 2021 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award. She is also a member of the FRIB Program Advisory Committee, the FRIB Users Organization, and the FRIB Theory Alliance.

Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award winners are recognized for their exceptional contributions in research and development supporting the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) missions in science, energy, and national security. Established in 1959, the Lawrence Award recognizes mid-career U.S. scientists and engineers who have advanced new research and scientific discovery in nine categories representing the broad science and engineering missions of DOE and its programs.

Quaglioni was cited for her work in nuclear physics, specifically for seminal contributions unifying the theory of structure and reactions of light nuclei, providing predictive capability critical for understanding inertial fusion and nuclear astrophysics, as well as pioneering applications of quantum device simulations for nuclear dynamics.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this esteemed award and still a little overwhelmed by the thought of being placed in such distinguished ranks as those of the past E.O. Lawrence laureates, who have made far more profound contributions to science and society and whom I consider a source of inspiration,“ she said.

In honor of the recipients and their accomplishments, DOE will host a hybrid award ceremony in Washington, DC, on 22 September.

Sofia Quaglioni

Quaglioni is the principal investigator of the DOE Nuclear Physics (NP)-funded computational nuclear structure and low-energy reactions research at LLNL. Her work has helped lead to the emergence of a new, unified framework—combining first-principle theory and high-performance computing simulations—to explain the structure of both stable nuclei and rare isotopes, and predict difficult-to-measure rates of thermonuclear reactions between light nuclei during the Big Bang, in the interior of stars, and in terrestrial fusion experiments.

She is the principal investigator of the DOE NP Quantum Horizons project “Near-Term Quantum Simulations for Nuclear Physics.” In her various roles at LLNL, Quaglioni also contributes to the Stewardship Science Program, through the evaluation of cross sections that directly impact the DOE’s national security and non-proliferation mission.

“Our team effort on the application of near-term quantum computing to the simulation of nuclear dynamics contributes to our nation’s continued leadership in nuclear physics research as well as in quantum information science and its technology applications,” she said.

Different combinations of protons and neutrons can give rise to a wide variety of phenomena. These range from stable nuclei that form the familiar elements of everyday life, to exotic nuclei only existing for a fleeting moment produced in laboratories such as FRIB. They even include the nuclear reactions that power the stars and drive the evolution of the universe. Arriving at a comprehensive and predictive understanding of how such a wide range of phenomena emerges from the laws of quantum mechanics and the interactions among protons and neutrons is an overarching goal of nuclear physics and DOE.

“For a long time, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle toward achieving this goal was the disconnect between the microscopic description of the structure of static nuclei and the theory used to model nuclear reactions,” said Quaglioni. “My research aims at closing this divide.”

Quaglioni said she is excited about user experiments being underway at FRIB.

“I am very passionate about our field’s overarching goal of arriving at a comprehensive and predictive understanding of nuclear phenomena, therefore I am really excited about the FRIB experimental program and all the new data it will bring to challenge our models,” she said. “I am also looking forward to the new discoveries that will no doubt emerge from the program. Rare-isotope beams produced at FRIB will give unprecedented access to unexplored regions of the nuclear chart, thus providing crucial information about nuclear structure and the underlying force that binds protons and neutrons into stable nuclei and rare isotopes and governs nuclear decays and reactions. This will help me and my theoretician colleagues to develop a more fundamental and accurate description of nuclei and their role in the universe. FRIB will also provide a wealth of new data that, combined with state-of-the-art models, will lead to improved evaluations for nuclear science applications.”

Read the LLNL article about Quaglioni here.

Read the DOE announcement about all of this year’s winners here.

Michigan State University (MSU) operates the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) as a user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC), supporting the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics. Hosting what is designed to be the most powerful heavy-ion accelerator, FRIB enables scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes in order to better understand the physics of nuclei, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions, and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security, and industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of today’s most pressing challenges. For more information, visit