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National Science Foundation Awards Physics Professor $135,000 Research Grant

September 03, 2020

Physics professor Mohamed Anber and physics major Ben Kolligs '18 work through a theoretical ...Physics professor Mohamed Anber and physics major Ben Kolligs '18 work through a theoretical physics problem together.

For the second time in four years, Assistant Professor of Physics Mohamed Anber has been selected for a National Science Foundation research grant. Anber’s first NSF grant, awarded in 2017, engaged his research interests of quantum field theory, gravity, and cosmology through the study of compactified gauge theories. His new, three-year grant will build on these results, developing new techniques to further understand the interaction of elementary particles.

This latest recognition follows Anber’s selection as a Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) Scholar in 2019, an ongoing research project for faculty working on problems at the “leading edges of science.”

Over the next three years, the NSF grant will allow Anber to involve a number of undergraduate students in different elements of his research. Several students will have the opportunity to develop a Jupyter Notebook, which will simulate various statistical mechanical systems, and others will engage with Monte Carlo simulations and numerical solutions of partial differential equations.

“The research is complex,” Anber says. “I tell my students, ‘Here is a problem that has so many details you don’t need to know about, so you just need to solve this specific problem.’ One student is able to solve it, and then we can collect and potentially publish the results.”

Anber’s forthcoming research is primarily concerned with the strong nuclear force—the force of nature responsible for holding protons and neutrons inside the nuclei.

“This force is poorly understood because we still don’t understand the mathematics behind it,” Anber says. “We can write down a theory and put it on a supercomputer that can give us an answer, but we don’t understand why the answer is the way that it is.”

Titled “RUI: Higher-form ‘t Hooft Anomalies, Information Theory, and Continuity in Gauge Theories,” Anber’s research proposal will help to fill these gaps of understanding by advancing quantitative developments critical to theoretical physicists, such as ‘t Hooft anomalies and entanglement entropy.

For students within the department, Anber’s courses in computational physics and cosmology provide a critical opening for greater insight into his research process. Computational Physics, a course offered next fall, is particularly relevant.

“Students are given a physical problem and learn how to turn it into a code and solve it,” Anber says. “This is extremely important for some of the students who might want to engage with my research, especially when the research requires numerical techniques.”

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