Theoretical Particle Physics Research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics


Our overall aim is to elucidate the nature of matter and its fundamental interactions via a variety of phenomenological and theoretical studies. Of crucial importance will be the new results coming from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The proposed research will improve our ability to predict the effects of the strong interactions (QCD) on the processes that will be studied at the LHC and develop efficient methods to determine the properties of any new states of matter discovered there. Both analytical and numerical methods will be used to study the properties of hadrons, strongly interacting bound states of quarks. Our research will seek to determine what lies beyond the Standard Model of the strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions, with the ultimate goal of providing a fully unified theory, including gravity. The most promising candidate theories will be studied, including Grand and superstring unification and theories with additional space dimensions. Laboratory, astrophysical and cosmological implications will be analysed to determine the most sensitive experimental tests of these theories. We hope these studies will lead to a complete understanding of the origin of mass, including an understanding of the quark, charged lepton and neutrino masses, mixing angles and CP violation, as well as of the nature of dark matter. In addition to having direct relevance to the LHC program, our research will have relevance to present and future neutrino and astroparticle experiments and to astrophysical and cosmological studies. In particular a concerted effort will be made to understand the nature of the dark matter and optimise strategies for detecting both direct and indirect signals. The implications of particle physics models for early universe processes such as inflation will also be studied, with reference to forthcoming data from Planck concerning possible non-gaussianity in the CMB anisotropy and spectral features which provide new probes of the dynamics. The physics potential of the IceCube detector (in particular the PINGU sub-array) for studying oscillations of atmospheric neutrinos will be investigated.

Planned Impact

Particle physics underlies the workings of the material world, being concerned with the architecture of the fundamental physical interactions at the highest energies i.e. on the smallest distance scales. This naturally provides a link to the birth and evolution of the universe as a whole since the laws that governed the dynamics of space-time and matter at very early epochs close to the Big Bang are precisely those that we seek to unravel today through studies of elementary particles in both terrestrial accelerators, as well as through studies of high energy cosmic radiation. This research is truly fundamental in nature, seeking to obtain a mathematically rigorous and physically meaningful description of the laws that govern the universe - from gravity and electromagnetism on the largest scales to the weak and strong forces on the smallest. The Particle Theory Group at Oxford is active in most of the frontier areas of the subject - from particle phenomenology relevant to understanding the data pouring out of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, as well as astroparticle experiments like IceCube and Auger, to mathematical studies aimed at constructing a consistent quantum description of gravity, e.g. superstring theory, which can resolve the mystery of the initial singularity at the Big Bang where all physical laws that we know today become inapplicable. We use analytic techniques as well as innovative numerical approaches using fast computers to study a wide range of problems which bear on the key science questions in the STFC roadmap.

To ensure that our results reach their target audiences, they are published in leading high impact journals. We also serve as editors and referees of many such journals and through rigorous peer review contribute towards maintaining the very high standards of our field. Since 2010 we have published 224 papers in refereed journals and served as editors and referees of 27 such journals. We have also undertaken to review applications made to 23 grant giving bodies in 15 countries (including the UK research councils STFC and EPSRC, as well as the Royal Society and the Leverhulme Foundation). We, as well as our postdocs, receive many invitations to speak at national and conferences which give us an opportunity to publicise our work and influence the direction of thinking in the field. Our post-docs and graduate students also attend such meetings in order to present and discuss their results. We are active in organising both specialist workshops and conferences, as well as in organising and teaching in specialist schools aimed at graduate students and young researchers. Since 2010 we been involved directly in organising 3 schools and 3 workshops and served on the international advisory committees of many more. In addition to generating, disseminating and applying scientific knowledge, we perform a very important additional function through our research, namely training graduate students and postdoctoral workers. 23 of our students have been awarded DPhil degrees since 2010 and most have gone on to postdoctoral positions, and some to industry. The international profile of Oxford University and our Group ensures that we receive applications from prospective students and young researchers of the highest calibre. We undertake to train these young minds how to think independently and critically and how to use advanced reasoning and both analytic and computational skills to undertake problem solving of a very high order.

We participate in a wide range of outreach activities ranging from talks to local schools and the public, consultation by national media, and extensive interactions with undergraduate audiences both in the UK and elsewhere. We participate in our University's programme to promote science by contributing to Open Days, Masterclasses and Access schemes. An innovative website set up with the help of summer students has received over 34,000 visits since Sep 2012.
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Sectors Education
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