About Me

I grew up in Bulgaria on the Black sea coast and loved beaches, swimming, math, and playing the piano. In 7th grade, I took my first physics class and fell in love with physics. After that, I got a M.S. degree at Sofia University with a thesis in laser spectroscopy. I met my husband Momchil, who is  a theoretical physicist, at a New Year’s eve party at a remote hut up in the Pirin mountain. He taught me skiing and rock-climbing, which I enjoy to this day, and we talked about physics during the rest to the time. In 1991 after our generation took down the Berlin wall and the communist governments in all Eastern Europe, we came to the United States as Ph.D. students at Stony Brook University. I changed fields to nuclear physics and did my research at the Stony Brook Van der Graff – Linac accelerator studying quasi-fission reactions with the goal of understanding nuclear viscosity. I got my Ph.D. in 1997 and continued as a post-doc at Stony Brook, changing fields from low energy nuclear physics to relativistic heavy ions. I joined the PHENIX experiment at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and helped build parts of it. I was lucky to analyze some of the first PHENIX data and played a role in discovering the quark-gluon plasma (QGP) at RHIC. We found that this is the most perfect fluid in nature (nearly inviscid!). I moved to Brookhaven National Lab in 2001 and to Vanderbilt University – in 2003. Presently, I am interested in finding the limits of the perfect-fluid behavior by studying the smallest systems in which it can be observed. I  do this using data from the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider and the PHENIX experiment at RHIC. Looking into the future, I have joined the sPHENIX collaboration, which is building a new state-of-the-art detector for RHIC.

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