This award funds the research activities of Professor Lisa Randall at Harvard University.
Professor Randall will conduct research on dark-matter physics and more generally on physics beyond the so-called Standard Model which explains the behavior of the elementary particles down to the smallest length scales ever probed in collider experiments. Professor Randall's research will include studies of partially interacting dark matter, a theoretical framework which posits the existence of certain components of dark matter which interact under the influence of dark forces beyond those in the Standard Model. Such dark-matter components, if they exist, could potentially give rise to galactic shapes and structures which might be detectable through detailed dynamical measurements. Professor Randall will also pursue alternative ideas for addressing the long-standing hierarchy problem of particle physics. This is the problem of explaining why the recently discovered Higgs particle is so much lighter than our current understanding of fundamental physics would suggest. Such questions have broad scientific impact in that they attempt to address basic questions about the nature of matter and the symmetries and structure of space and time. This science has traditionally been very strong within the United States, and this project will further advance the national interest by reinforcing research in these directions. Professor Randall will also conduct this research in collaboration with postdoctoral researchers and graduate students, thereby helping to produce a scientifically educated and technically advanced workforce. Professor Randall will also give public lectures about this work which will be seen by the general public.
More technically, Professor Randall will work with a student and a postdoctoral fellow to determine how well the ideas described above can be advanced with available and future statistics. In the case of dwarf galaxies, the questions apply both to the data and to the simulations that will be available. In the case of partially interacting dark matter there are probes within our galaxy (such as GAIA) and outside our galaxy (such as the vast plane of satellites in Andromeda, for example) that can address these questions. For the hierarchy problem, Professor Randall will investigate extensions of the ideas and methods involving extra dimensions and dynamical theories to see if improved solutions can be found, particularly those that can be tested at future colliders.
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.