ERC Starting Grant for Dr. Sandra Eibenberger-Arias

September 05, 2023

Dr. Sandra Eibenberger-Arias, a distinguished Austrian physicist from Vienna with an exceptional academic record, has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant totalling €1.8 million for a period of five years. This grant recognizes her groundbreaking research in the field of coherent control of chiral molecules, paving the way for innovative advancements in chemistry and physics.

Dr. Eibenberger-Arias, who is the Research Group Leader of the "Controlled Molecules Group" in the Department of Molecular Physics at the Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Berlin boasts an illustrious academic and research career. She holds a PhD in physics with distinction from the University of Vienna, Austria, where her doctoral research, conducted under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Markus Arndt, focused on quantum interference experiments with complex organic molecules.

As a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University's Department of Physics in the group of Prof. John Doyle, from 2015 to 2018, Dr. Eibenberger-Arias delved into research on cold (chiral) molecules and spectroscopy in a cryogenic buffer gas cell. Her exceptional contributions to the field have earned her numerous awards and fellowships, including being an Elisabeth Schiemann fellow, receiving the Young Scientist Award from ASCINA – Austrian Scientists & Scholars in North America, and the Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship of the Austrian Science Fund.

The ERC Starting Grant, part of the EU's Horizon Europe program, has been awarded to Dr. Eibenberger-Arias for her project titled "Coherent Control of Chiral Molecules: COCOCIMO." Chiral molecules, which have two non-superimposable mirror image versions known as enantiomers, play a pivotal role in various chemical and biological processes. Dr. Eibenberger-Arias aims to develop innovative methods for internal and external coherent control of chiral molecules. These methods will enable precision studies in fundamental physics and physical chemistry applications.

Intriguingly, her research will explore the quantum mechanical principle of wave-particle duality, which will lead to the development of a groundbreaking experiment involving cold, gas-phase molecules diffracted at a resonant optical grating. This innovation will facilitate the preparation of quantum state-pure samples of molecules, advancing our understanding of light-molecule interactions.

Through a combination of internal and external coherent control, Dr. Eibenberger-Arias's project promises to achieve spatial separation of chiral molecules in a dilute molecular beam, a feat that has long eluded the scientific community. This achievement will undoubtedly open new doors for scientific exploration and technological applications.

Commenting on the award, ERC President Professor Maria Leptin said, "It is part of our mission to give early-career talent the independence to pursue ambitious curiosity-driven research that can shape our future. Congratulations to all winners and good luck on your path to discovery."

The European Research Council, established by the European Union in 2007, is a premier funding organization for excellent frontier research across Europe. The ERC supports creative researchers of all nationalities and ages, facilitating pioneering projects that push the boundaries of knowledge.

In a highly competitive field with 2,696 proposals, Dr. Sandra Eibenberger-Arias's success rate of securing the ERC Starting Grant reflects the caliber and significance of her research. The overall success rate was 14.8%. Her work promises to have a transformative impact on our understanding of chiral molecules, with wide-ranging implications for science.

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