30 under 30: Playing Billiards with Neutrons and Protons to Understand Exotic Nuclei

Meet Ragnar Stroberg, 25, one of the up-and-coming physicists attending this year's Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Image courtesy of Ragnar Stroberg

The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting brings a wealth of scientific minds to the shores of Germany’s Lake Constance. Every summer at Lindau, dozens of Nobel Prize winners exchange ideas with hundreds of young researchers from around the world. Whereas the Nobelists are the marquee names, the younger contingent is an accomplished group in its own right. In advance of this year’s meeting, which focuses on physics, we are profiling several promising attendees under the age of 30. The profile below is the 22nd in a series of 30.

Name: Ragnar Stroberg
Age: 25
Born: California, USA
Nationality: American

Current position: Ph.D. student at Michigan State University
Education: Bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from UC Berkeley; Master’s degree in physics from Michigan State University

What is your field of research?
I work in experimental nuclear physics, studying the structure of nuclei far from stability. Our group specializes in using gamma ray spectroscopy to learn about these exotic nuclei.

What drew you to physics, and to that research area in particular?
I find it very satisfying to understand things at a basic, fundamental  level and physics is the most basic and fundamental of the sciences. I was drawn to nuclear physics because the experiments are simple on the surface - essentially playing billiards with neutrons and protons - but at a deeper level describing these experiments involves ideas from quantum mechanics, special relativity, electricity and magnetism, optics, condensed matter physics, and statistical physics, to name a few. This richness behind relative simplicity is the great attraction of nuclear physics.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
10 years from now I would like to be doing physics research and to still be surrounded by people who are smarter than I am. I would love to help solve the problem of connecting the quarks that we understand reasonably well to the rich behavior of complicated nuclear systems in a quantitative way.

Who are your scientific heroes?
Feynman, Einstein, Fermi, Bohr, and Faraday

What activities outside of physics do you most enjoy?
My hobbies include cycling and home brewing.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
I think the Lindau meeting is a tremendous opportunity to learn from scientists who were able to make major discoveries about how nature behaves. At the very least, I look forward  to hearing some good stories. With some luck, I hope to be inspired to make a small discovery of my own. In addition, I look forward to meeting other young physicists from around the world and learning about what they do.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet or learn from at Lindau?
Not many of the Nobelists at Lindau have done work that directly relates to my own research, but the work of Roy Glauber in quantum optics is crucial to the description of nuclear reactions that I’ll use in my PhD thesis.

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21. Minnie Mao
30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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23. Sander Huisman


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