This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).
The goal of this CAREER proposal is to understand the limits and predictive power of string theory by: (1) investigating fundamental questions such as: Are there consistent models of quantum gravity that are not described by string theories? And if so, what constraints does string theory put on quantum theories of gravity in general?; and (2) applying the ideas and methods of string theory to other fields of physics and mathematics. The first part of the research project will be carried out by studying low dimensional models of quantum gravity, using the insight of the holographic duality between gravity and gauge theories (AdS/CFT correspondence) as well as effective field theories. Corners of the landscape of four-dimensional string vacua will be explored using recently discovered dual three dimensional gauge theories. The dynamics of branes at strong coupling and string theory in spacetimes with large curvature will be investigated using integrable structures in large N gauge theories and in string sigma models. The second part of the project is concerned with applying AdS/CFT and brane constructions in string theory to understand phenomena in QCD, such as confinement, chiral symmetry breaking, quark-gluon plasma, and to understand strongly coupled 2+1 dimensional systems in condensed matter physics. Connections between the physics of black holes and the mathematics of enumerative geometry and modular forms will be further explored. The proposed projects broader impact is through the PIs curriculum development and mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students at Harvard, and through the integration of the PIs research and teaching into the outreach program TheoryNet. The PI's education plan includes developing new courses at Harvard University on important subjects in theoretical physics advanced in the past forty years. Group meetings with graduate and undergraduate students will be established. The PI's research and teaching in these areas will be integrated into the outreach program TheoryNet, with the goal of exposing K-12 students and teachers in the greater Boston area, as well as neighboring northeastern states, to advances in theoretical physics. The PI will visit high school classes, give presentations on research topics, answer questions from the students, share experiences with high school teachers and together develop a learning community.