This award funds the research activities of Professor Edward Witten and a group of postdoctoral researchers at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
The project is devoted to the study of elementary particle physics, including its connections to other areas of study ranging from astrophysics and cosmology to condensed-matter physics and geometry. Current and planned work of the researchers supported by this grant covers a very wide range of topics, including the connections between gauge theory (the modern language of the physics governing the elementary particles), string theory (a speculative proposal for unifying the fundamental forces of nature), and geometry. These researchers will also study the possibilities for new models of particle physics that might be relevant at current and future particle-physics experiments; new methods of computing and studying the ways in which elementary particles scatter off each other; new experimental hints of the cosmic dark matter which makes up most of the matter in the universe; and more. Research in these areas thus advances the national interest by promoting the progress of science in one of its most fundamental directions: the discovery and understanding of new physical laws. This project will also have significant broader impacts. The postdoctoral fellows supported by this project will also gain experience working at a high level on these exciting scientific problems, which have all attracted great interest nationally and internationally.
More technically, Edward Witten's most recent work has concerned the random-matrix approach to two-dimensional gravity and supergravity, and its relation to volumes of moduli spaces. Witten also recently worked with astronomers on a model of dark matter. The postdoctoral fellows supported by this project have a wide range of interests and work with each other on frontier topics in theoretical high-energy physics as well as with Professor Witten and other local faculty.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.