Catherine Deibel named 2024 LSU Mid-Career Rainmaker in STEM

Professor Catherine Deibel
Professor Catherine Deibel
Eye Wander Photography

The LSU Council on Research has named Professor Catherine Deibel as a 2024 Rainmaker Mid-Career Scholar in the category of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The “Rainmakers” honor is given to professors who stand out for their ability to secure external research funding, publish in prominent journals and for gaining national as well as international recognition for their work.

Deibel’s research lies at the intersection of nuclear physics and astrophysics, studying the properties of short-lived atomic nuclei to understand astrophysical phenomena such as stellar explosions by determining the nuclear reactions that drive such explosions in hydrogen- and helium-rich environments. Deibel’s group develops, builds and tests state-of-the-art detectors on the LSU flagship campus, which she then brings to accelerator facilities around the world to measure nuclei and nuclear reactions.

“Dr. Deibel’s work encompasses the training of undergraduate and graduate students, first class scholarship as evidenced by high-impact publications, extremely robust federal funding, and the development of new instruments to push her research field forward," said Jeffery Blackmon, Russell B. Long Professor and Physics & Astronomy Department Chair.

“For me, the excitement of basic research lies in finding the answers to fundamental questions about the world around us,” Deibel said. “With our research, we are trying to answer one of the most basic questions: Where did we come from? Just a few minutes after the Big Bang, hydrogen, helium, and lithium were formed, but the oxygen in the air we breathe, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood, and all the other elements that make up our bodies and the world around us were foraged in stars.”

Since joining the faculty in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at LSU in 2011, she has continued her research on the synthesis of elements in a variety of stellar explosions, including supernovae, x-ray bursts and classical novae. Specifically, she has developed experimental devices and techniques to measure the nuclear reactions responsible for this nucleosynthesis and employed them at accelerator laboratories around the country and abroad, including the installation of a 35-ton magnetic spectrograph at Florida State University supported by a Major Research Instrumentation Award from the National Science Foundation.

Deibel has been a prolific researcher, with almost 80 publications during her time at LSU. Her internationally recognized work has been cited over 3000 times, and she has been continually funded as the PI or co-PI on U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation research grants, totaling over $5.5M in funding. This is her second time receiving the LSU Rainmaker award, having previously earned it as an emerging scholar in 2015-2016. 

She has also been a leader on major national and international committees in nuclear physics and in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion as a founding co-chair of the LSU Department of Physics & Astronomy’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) and the LSU Team lead for the American Physical Society’s Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity Alliance (IDEA) program, dedicated to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment. 

Deibel received her bachelor's degree from Amherst College in 2002 and her doctorate in the field of experimental nuclear astrophysics from Yale University in 2008. Her doctoral research focused on the synthesis of Al-26 in stellar explosions known as classical nova. She then spent three years at Argonne National Laboratory as a Visiting Research Associate with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics studying a series of nuclear reactions responsible for driving the most common stellar explosions in the galaxy: x-ray bursts.

This year, LSU awarded six faculty members who have earned national or international recognition for their research. The Rainmaker awards recognize sustained work with high impact on the academic community and beyond, often in alignment with LSU’s Scholarship First Agenda to elevate lives.

“These incredible faculty stand out as leaders in their respective research fields,” said Robert Twilley, vice president of research and economic development at LSU. “Their high-caliber discoveries further the university’s mission to improve lives in Louisiana and all around the world.”

The Rainmaker awards are presented in partnership with Campus Federal Credit Union with a one-time cash stipend of $1,000. On Thursday, March 21, this year’s winners will be recognized during a reception and celebration in the Huey P. Long Fieldhouse Ballroom on the flagship campus.

To read the complete list of 2024 Rainmaker awardees, click here.

Additional Links:

Catherine Deibel Named LSU Rainmaker Mid-Career Scholar in the category of STEM

Catherine Deibel Awarded DOE Early Career Research Grant



Contact: Mimi LaValle

LSU Physics & Astronomy