Fermilab boasts new Theory Division

Theoretical physics research at Fermi National Particle Accelerator Laboratory has always sparked new ideas and scientific opportunities, while at the same time supporting the large experimental group that conducts research at Fermilab. In recent years, the Theoretical Physics Department has further strengthened its position worldwide as a hub for the high-energy physics theoretical community. The department has now become Fermilab’s newest division, the Theory Division, which officially launched early this year with strong support from HEP.

This new division seeks to:

  • support strategic theory leadership;
  • promote new initiatives, as well as strengthen existing ones;
  • and leverage U.S. Department of Energy support through partnerships with universities and more.

“Creating the Theory Division increases the lab’s abilities to stimulate and develop new pathways to discovery,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer.

Led by Marcela Carena and her deputy Patrick Fox, this new division features three departments: Particle Theory, Astrophysics Theory and Quantum Theory. “This structure will help us focus our scientific efforts in each area and will allow for impactful contributions to existing and developing programs for the theory community,” said Carena.

Particle Theory Department

At the helm of the Particle Theory Department is Andreas Kronfeld. This department studies all aspects of theoretical particle physics, especially those areas inspired by the experimental program—at Fermilab and elsewhere. It coordinates leading national efforts, including the Neutrino Theory Network, and the migration of the lattice gauge theory program to Exascale computing platforms. Lattice quantum chromodynamics, or QCD, experts support the Muon g-2 Theory Initiative, providing a solid theory foundation for the recently announced results of the Muon g-2 experiment.

Fermilab particle theorists, working with Argonne National Laboratory nuclear theorists, are using machine learning for developing novel event generators to precisely model neutrino-nuclear interactions, and employ lattice QCD to model multi-nucleon interactions; both are important for achieving the science goals of DUNE.

Fermilab experts on perturbative QCD use high-performance computing to tackle the complexity of simulations for experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. Fermilab theorists are strongly involved in the exploration of physics beyond the Standard Model, through model-building, particle physics phenomenology, and formal aspects of quantum field theory.

Astrophysics Theory Department

Astrophysics Theory, led by Dan Hooper, consists of researchers who work at the confluence of astrophysics, cosmology and particle physics. Fermilab’s scientists have played a key role in the development of this exciting field worldwide and continue to be deeply involved in supporting the Fermilab cosmic frontier program.

Key areas of research include dark matter, dark energy, the cosmic microwave background, large-scale structure, neutrino astronomy and axion astrophysics.  A large portion of the department’s research involves numerical cosmological simulations of galaxy formation, large-scale structures and gravitational lensing. The department is developing machine-learning tools to help solve these challenging problems.

Quantum Theory Department

Led by Roni Harnik, the Quantum Theory Department has researchers working at the interface of quantum information science and high-energy physics. Fermilab theorists are working to harness the developing power of unique quantum information capabilities to address important physics questions, such as the simulation of QCD processes, dynamics in the early universe, and more generally simulating quantum field theories. Quantum-enhanced capabilities also open new opportunities to explore the universe and test theories of new particles, dark matter, gravitational waves and other new physics.

Scientists in the Quantum Theory Department are developing new algorithms for quantum simulations, and they are proposing novel methods to search for new phenomena using quantum technology, including quantum optics, atomic physics, optomechanical sensors and superconducting systems. The department works in close collaboration with both the Fermilab Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center and the Fermilab Quantum Institute, as well as leads a national QuantISED theory consortium.

Looking ahead

The new Theory Division also intends to play a strong role in attracting and inspiring the next generation of theorists, training them in a data-rich environment, as well as promoting an inclusive culture that values diversity.

“The best part about being a Fermilab theorist,” said Marcela Carena,is working with brilliant junior scientists and sharing their excitement about exploring new ideas.”

Learn more about Theory Division activities.