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Maria Żurek

Assistant Physicist

I am an experimental nuclear physicist exploring the nature of the strong interaction and trying to unravel the mystery of the origin of the spin of the proton in proton-proton and proton-electron collision experiments.


Protons and neutrons, the building blocks of visible matter, are complex systems of valence quarks and dynamically produced quark-antiquark pairs, bound together by gluons. A major goal of modern nuclear physics is to understand how the structure of nucleons and the interactions between them arise from the dynamics of quarks and gluons described by the theory of strong interaction, Quantum Chromodynamics. My academic interest focuses on exploring the nature of the strong interaction and the way it manifests itself in the properties and interactions of hadrons. Pursuing this scientific direction, I have been studying experimentally the features of nucleons - the basic constituents of visible matter - from the source of their mass to the spin properties.

In my research, I study the proton spin structure with proton-proton collisions at the STAR Experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory and in electron-proton/nucleus interactions at the CLAS12 Experiment at Jefferson Lab. At the STAR Collaboration, I’m a convener of the Spin and Cold-QCD Physics Working Group. Looking into the future, I work on the development of calorimetry for future investigations of the proton structure at the Electron-Ion Collider.

During my PhD, I was probing the proton-neutron mass difference originating from the strong interactions via the up and down quark mass difference with the measurement of the charge symmetry breaking observables at the WASA Experiment. I was also involved also in measurements of diffractive processes (central exclusive mesons production) that can test QCD in the confinement regime at the CDF experiment. My first postdoctoral appointment was focused on the development of polarimetry for searches for an electric dipole moment (EDM) of the proton and deuteron at the JEDI collaboration. My interest in spin physics brought me finally to the STAR collaboration where, since my second postdoctoral appointment, I study the spin structure of the proton with jets. 


  • Assistant Physicist, 2021 - Present
    Argonne National Laboratory, USA
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, 2018 - 2021
    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA 
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, 2017 - 2018
    Research Center Jülich, Germany


  • PhD in Experimental Physics, 2016
    University of Cologne, Germany
  • MSc in Experimental Physics, 2013
    Jagiellonian University, Poland
  • BSc in Physics, 2011
    Jagiellonian University, Poland