Particle Physics Theory at Royal Holloway and Sussex (PhD1)

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Physics


The proposed research unites the particle theory groups at Sussex and Royal Holloway in the hunt for new physics under three broad headings:

Collider and low-energy phenomenology

The Large Hadron Collider boosts elementary particles to velocities so close to that of light that their effective mass grows by a factor of a billion. By smashing these particles together there are new discoveries to be made, and new theories of physics to test. We will work on the complex task of relating the debris of these collisions to the new models put forward by theorists to explain some of the most puzzling questions of the universe - what is the origin of mass? and is there a quantum theory of gravity?

Particle astrophysics and cosmology

Perhaps the most active area of research in the past decade has been at the interface between particle physics and cosmology. In order to understand the history of the universe we must understand physical laws in the first moments of the Big Bang, when temperatures and particle energies were huge. Conversely, by detailed observations of the universe today we can trace back the conditions and make deductions about physical laws at high energies.

Our research will tackle four big questions about the universe: why is there more matter than antimatter? what is dark matter? is there any evidence out there for strings or string theory? and how does the expansion of the universe accelerate?

Physics of fundamental forces

One of the major problems in modern theoretical physics is the extrapolation of physical laws to new length or energy scales. We wish to push our understanding to ever more extreme situations such the collisions of particles in the Large Hadron Collider, or the very early universe. Our research will develop our theoretical tools and extrapolate the physics of elementary particles and gravity to new regimes of energy, in the quest to understand particles and forces in a unified framework.

Planned Impact

The impact of the Particle Physics Group at Royal Holloway, University of London
(RHUL) is primarily through outreach. Please also note that the theoretical
particle physics activities at RHUL were first established in 2009
with two academic staff positions.

Two PhD students currently receive training in theoretical particle
physics. Our group engages in theoretical research that relies heavily on
symbolic and numerical computations. As by-products, we sometimes develop
improved algorithms or other more efficient computational methods. If these
are potentially useful in other scientific fields or industry, we will
disseminate such knowledge to a broader audience. Kauer has, for example,
published a generally applicable numerical method in Computer Physics

RHUL's Research and Enterprise Office carries out a regular technology
audit on ongoing research projects. If we identify anything that has
commercial potential then we will have access to HEIF4 PARK
seed funds to follow up on the ideas.

The fundamental questions our group investigates are of interest to many
scientifically interested members of the general public.
In fact, West's research was recently reviewed in New Scientist, an
international science magazine covering recent developments in science and
technology for a general audience.
The first article reviewed West's research on particle collisions in the
gravitational field of a black hole: "Black holes are the ultimate particle
smashers", issue 2725. The second article reviewed West's research on dark
matter in the sun: "Heart of darkness could explain sun mysteries", issue 2769.
Further to this article West was interviewed on the live news channel NT24 about
the possible effects that dark matter can have on the sun.

In addition to promoting such non-technical coverage of our research, we also
include field/research-specific information that is suitable for an interested
general audience in our group's Web presence.

All RHUL group members participate in the annual Particle Physics
Masterclasses, which are run by RHUL's Centre for Particle Physics. Two
1-day masterclasses are held each year for 6th form students and their
teachers with about 75 students attending each event. In these events,
applicant Kauer leads the LHC activity and applicant West gives an
educational lecture on "The Structure of Matter".

Royal Holloway's physics outreach activities have been strongly boosted by
Dr Jennifer Lardge, our Science Outreach Officer (50% funded by SEPnet), who
works in close collaboration with our academic Outreach Co-ordinator, Dr V Boisvert,
in maintaining a high level of outreach activity.
For 6th-form students, in addition to masterclasses, the department runs
physics taster days for students who are interested in applying for a physics
degree programme. These events are continuously well attended, with the number of
applications for physics degrees at RHUL doubling in the last two years,
from 157 in 2008/9 to 284 in 2010/11.
For younger students there is a GCSE physics research programme, a roller coaster
physics day, Operation Golden Eagle (an event for year-8 students, where they
become secret agents for the day and solve a series of scientific challenges to
recover stolen gold), and a Talk Science activity. Members of the department
visit schools to give talks about various topical and pedagogical physics themes,
for instance "The Physics of Ice Cream". The department produces
scientific posters on a range of physics topics.
To support the very effective word of mouth advertising,
the department maintains a comprehensive outreach Web page,
where teachers can find helpful information about all offered
outreach activities. RHUL also runs Science Open Days.
Description advances in collider physics
Exploitation Route increase precision, extend analysis
Sectors Other

Description findings used in university outreach activities