This award funds the research activities of Professors David Gross, Joseph Polchinski, Mark Srednicki, Robert Sugar, and Anthony Zee at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
This award will support research aimed at understanding the basic building blocks of matter and the fundamental laws underlying nature by a variety of approaches: theoretical, computational, and by building models of the properties of elementary particles. Gross and Polchinski are largely focused on the construction of a unified theory of gravity and the particle interactions, based on string theory and related ideas. Particular approaches are the study of the quantum mechanical properties of black holes, the emergence of space-time from a more fundamental theory, and the understanding of higher symmetries that appear in these theories. Sugar studies the properties of the strong nuclear interaction using large-scale computation, directed at testing the existing Standard Model of particle properties and the search for new physics. Srednicki and Zee study models of known and new particles, including neutrinos, supersymmetric particles, and dark matter. These are all areas where a host of experiments will continue to report new results, from the LHC and Fermilab to a variety of deep-mine and space-based observations. The members of the group are broad in their interests and work on other areas as well, including nonequilibrium dynamics, quantum chaos and its connections with mathematics and physics, new methods and applications in quantum field theory (the basic mathematical framework for quantum physics), and the understanding of the cosmological constant, which drives the accelerating expansion of the universe.
The training of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows is a major activity of this grant. The broad range of research topics covered by this award, and the strong scientific base at UCSB and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, provide an excellent environment for the education of young scientists. The PIs are also active in communicating science to the public, through lectures, writings, and interactions with the scientific press and the media, and several have written widely used textbooks. Part of the effort in lattice gauge theory is aimed at developing large-scale computational infrastructure for the entire U.S. lattice gauge theory community. The approach being taken has broad possibilities for application to computationally-intensive problems in many areas of science and engineering.