theoretical physics

In this lecture, Marcela Carena, head of the Theory Division at Fermilab and professor of physics at the University of Chicago, talks about “The unseen universe: Challenges for theory and experiment.” She explains how theorists think about the Higgs boson, neutrinos, dark matter and the exciting results from the Fermilab Muon g-2 experiment announced last year, and how these ideas can lead to new experiments and discoveries.

Inspired by the achievements of Jim Gates, currently Ford Foundation professor and director of the Brown University Theoretical Physics Center, the new Fermilab Sylvester James Gates, Jr. Fellowship prioritizes the inclusion of first-generation college graduates, and the representation of historically and contemporarily minoritized individuals underrepresented in theoretical physics.

Led by Marcela Carena, this brand-new division at the lab features three departments: Particle Theory, Astrophysics Theory and Quantum Theory.

Three factoid cards, which look similar to playing cards or a baseball card, appear on a background of stars in a night sky (or in outer space) in a cartoon rendering. On each of the cards is a circle adjusted its sunglasses, presumably each a type of neutrino. Underneath these images on the cards are scribbles representing text and a question mark. In the upper left corner, the abbreviations for electron neutrino, a muon neutrino or a tau neutrino appear.

Figuring out which type of neutrino is heaviest, or solving the puzzle of neutrino mass hierarchy, would be a huge leap in our understanding of both neutrinos and the physics that govern our universe. The NoVA experiment or DUNE could help physicists do just that.

Theoretical particle physics employs very difficult mathematics, so difficult that it is impossible to solve the equations. So scientists employ a mathematical technique called perturbation theory, which makes it possible to solve very difficult problems with very good precision.