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2015/06/04
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Emmy Noether grant for DESY theorist

Elli Pomoni, a postdoctoral researcher in DESY's theory group, receives almost 1 million euros through an Emmy Noether grant from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). The Emmy Noether Programme supports young researchers in achieving independence at an early stage of their scientific career. The grant allows Elli Pomoni to lead a young investigator group involving two PhD students and one postdoc. Starting on 1 June, and running over a period of five years, Pomoni and her team will conduct an amibitious project on “Exact results in Gauge theories”.

The discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC at CERN, has completed the Standard Model of elementary particles, one of the most experimentally well tested theories in physics. According to the Standard Model, the world around us is made out of matter particles which interact due to three different types of interactions: electromagnetism, weak interactions, and strong (nuclear) interactions. All of these can be described through so-called gauge theories. The quantum theory of strong interactions, the so-called quantum chromodynamics or QCD, asserts that nuclear matter is made out of particles known as quarks which interact through the exchange of gluons. However, even after 40 years of experience with quantum chromodynamics it has not been possible to explain the experimental fact that quarks are always confined inside the nuclei and can never be isolated. This is one of the biggest open problems in theoretical physics. The reason quark confinement presents such a challenge for theorists is that, up until very recently, all existing analytical tools of particle physics were only valid when the interactions between particles are weak. The same technical obstruction is also at the heart of other big unsolved problems, in different fields of Physics, such as high-temperature superconductivity and the Hall effect.

Significant progress has been achieved in the study of gauge theories in the last decades. Theoretical physicists have been able to calculate a plethora of processes exactly, thanks to the discovery of hidden symmetries, holography and other modern mathematical techniques, which previously seemed unreachable. Unfortunately, the majority of these results have been obtained only for the most symmetric and most unrealistic gauge theory in four dimensions. To break this impasse, Elli Pomoni aims to investigate methods that can be used in gauge theories with less supersymmetry and to obtain exact results for more realistic gauge theories.