Prof. Dr.

Freya BLEKMAN

Postal address:
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Physics Department
Elementary Particles Research Group
Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium

Office: 0G-123 (campus map)

Publications and research:  (VUB) - (inspire) - (1-page cv) - (5-page cv) 

Phone: 
+32 2 629 32 11

I am a research professor (ZAP-BOF) in elementary particle physics at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, working at the Interuniversity Institute for High Energies - IIHE (ULB-VUB). We are trying to experimentally answer questions like: how did the universe evolve? What are the smallest constituents of matter and are they really the smallest? What is the nature of space and time? What, really, is mass?

My research interests include the search for signs of new physics using the large hadron collider at CERN. My focus is on detection of new physics, such as for example Super-Symmetry (SUSY), using precision measurements and direct searches, looking predominantly at the top quark sector. I work in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) collaboration, where I am active in top quark physics and the search for new particles that decay to top quarks. I have been responsible for leadership of many large international research teams at CERN and CMS, the most prominent probably the start of the Beyond-Two-Generations (B2G) physics group, a physics coordination group dedicated to searches in the top quark sector in the CMS experiment. During my career I spent a substantial time in the United Kingdom, and I retain strong collaborations with University of Bristol (supervision of shared PhD students) and the University of Oxford (visiting lecturer).

Currently, I am coordinating the paper output of the CMS experiment in the context of Supersymmetry as the CMS SUSY Publication Committee Board co-chair. Some more about these responsibilities here.

In 2013, I was actively involved with the LHC Physics Center at Fermilab as a LPC distinguished researcher.

I regularly use social media, so take a look at my award winning twitter feed freyablekman and follow me if you like.

My most recent scientific curriculum vitae can be downloaded here.

 

One only really understands physics when one can explain it to the barmaid in the local pub

[Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)]

The explanation of the concepts of basic research to non-experts is usually referred to as outreach. Nowadays, with the dwindling number of students choosing scientific subjects is in sharp contrast with the demand of scientists in all different roles of society (so not only to work at universities or research labs like CERN). Science is considered either hard, or boring or both. This is particularly interesting as the jobs that scientists hold are typically not boring at all, these are some of the more wanted jobs society but some way or another this concept is not conveyed to high school students when they choose or plan their future.

 

At CERN I've been active in the CMS outreach committee, and am a certified CERN and CMS guide. One of my contributions was the Dutch version of the CMS brochure. The CMS brochure is aimed at advanced high school students, and explains in two pages what CMS is trying to measure, why this is interesting and also relevant for people who are not directly contributing to basic particle physics research. 

Some recent appearances 

My outreach heavily focuses on using social media and modern media outlets. You can follow me on twitter with handle freyablekman.

Other social media

I am also part of a select group of CERN physicists that answer questions on twitter. Use hash tag #askCERN to @CERN or just directly to @freyablekman
In March 2016 I curated the twitter account @_moriond_ of the famous particle physics conference Rencontres De Moriond

Recent videos

 

I was one of the scientists featured at CERN during a extremely successfull youtube video series on the restart of the large hadron collider in 2015. 

I was one for the organisers and interviewed when the Belgian-Dutch technology website tweakers.net visited CERN and reported this in a three-part youtube documentary.

Learn more about the detector I use to study the collisions at CERN. You can, if you wish, enjoy the Dutch language subtitles which I provided!

Other:

Bright Club

At the Bright Club Brussels One of the scariest things I've ever done:

 Science Stand-Up Comedy at the Bright Club in Brussels 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CERN courier:

Printed media

I am regularly in the media, here are some (recent) examples:

The CERN google hangouts:

CERN scientists regularly interact with the general public, and I am one of them. Some examples here:

The CERN masterclasses

Once per year we analyse CERN (CMS) data with students from Flemish high schools:

Blogs

During the LHC startup in 2008-2009, I made some blogging attempts:

The Higgs blog which accompanied the excellent Higgs documentary for which I was one of the scientists who contributed 
The Quantum Diaries blog effort

Experimental Physics / Experimentele fysica

This is the obligatory experimental physics laboratory for students in the first year of the bachelor Physics and Astronomy. The teaching language is Dutch. More course information can be found here.

Simulation of Physics Phenomena and Detectors in Modern Physics

This elective course is particularly suited to second year Masters students who have already followed the course "Experimental techniques in particle physics". It is part of the standard curriculum for the Master Physics and Astronomy at the VUB and UGent. The course focuses on actually using all concepts and techniques, including programming, that have been taught in the physics curriculum and gives an excellent preparation for a masters project. Students with a masters thesis project in particle physics or astroparticle physics are strongly encouraged to register. 

 

Anyone interested in this course should contact freya.blekman@vub.be in advance for further information, including teaching schedule.  The teaching language is English. More course information can be found in VUB canvas.

External Mobility for students in the Research Master Physics and Astronomy

Together with Prof. Steven Lowette I coordinate the assignment of the obligatory mobility courses, e.g., the 12 ECTS credits assigned for courses taken not at the VUB. These courses can be incorporated in international exchanges as well. Much more information on external mobility can be found here.

Measurement Techniques in Nuclear Science (Master, VUB/UGent)

Course information can be found here. This course is intended for bioengineers in a masters traject, interested in nuclear medicine applications. It explores the physics principles behind radioactivity and radiation, and the technologies necessary to detect these phenomena. Anyone interested in this course should contact freya.blekman@vub.ac.be in advance for further information, including teaching schedule.  The teaching language is English. 

Course material: will be supplied electronically after each lecture

Top quark physics for first year PhD students

This is a high-level course (aimed at first year PhD students in experimental particle physics) that I teach at the University of Oxford during Hillary Term.

Current responsibilities at the VUB 

  • Member of the executive board (facultair bureau) of the faculty of Science

  • Chair of Public Relations council faculty of Science

  • Secretary Education committee (astro)physics Bachelor

  • Coordinator (inter)national mobility (astro)physics Master

  • Academic external admissions officer for the VUB MSc of Physics and Astronomy

  • Secretary Education committee (astro)physics Master

  • Public-Relations responsible department of Physics and Astronomy

  • Responsible for organisation physics department during VUB open days

  • Responsible for the internal and external web pages of the Interuniversity Institute for High Energies, the experimental (astro)particle physics collaboration between ULB and VUB.

  • 2011-2018: Organiser of the invited seminars of the Interuniversity Institute for High Energies, the experimental (astro)particle physics collaboration between ULB and VUB.

Responsibilities outside the VUB

  • Guest Lecturer at University of Oxford
  • Deputy team leader CMS group Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Referee for European Physical Journal C
  • Member of the SUSY Publications Committee of the CMS collaboration
  • Chair of over 5 editorial boards inside the CMS collaboration (responsible for internal peer review)
  • Member of over 10 editorial boards inside the CMS collaboration (responsible for internal peer review)
  • Vice-chairperson of the W&T2 panel (covering theoretical, computational and experimental physics, excluding astrophysics and the physics of materials), scientific and funding review panel of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO, Flemish Funding agency)
  • Review Panel member NT3 (Physics and Astronomy), Swedish Research Council, Sweden

  • Chair person of the ATLAS –Canada Standing Review Committee, NSERC, Canada

  • Organiser CERN masterclasses for high school students at VUB (explained by me here)
  • Coordinator of Experimental/transversal tools effort of the eos be.h consortium 

  • Evaluator of foreign Physics degrees for NARIC Flanders

  • 2012-2017: Co-responsible for maintenance of the website of the Interuniversity Attractionpoles (IAP) programme Fundamental Interactions of the Belgian Federal government BELSPO
  • 2010-2017: VUB responsible of the Flemish Physics Olympiad
  • 2012-2017:Co-coordinator of the WP3 Beyond the Standard Model of the Interuniversity Attractionpoles (IAP) programme Fundamental Interactions of the Belgian Federal government BELSPO.

Prizes

  • 2011 FWO-Odysseus II grant.
  • 2013 CMS-LPC distinguished researcher, awarded by the US Department of Energy and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
  • 2013 Member of the CMS collaboration, winner of the European Physical Society High Energy and Particle Physics prize 2013
  • 2016 Flemish Academy of Science and Arts - Valorisation prize