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An Insight Into Nature's Strongest Force

Introduction:

My name is Lloyd and I am in the third year of my PhD studying Theoretical Nuclear Physics. I am attempting to provide a better theory to describe the phenomenon of neutral pion (a relatively light, short-lived particle that is found in nuclear and particle reactions) production from a photon (light) incident on a proton (a nuclear particle that is found in the nucleus of every atom).  Before starting my research I studied theoretical physics at the University of Manchester.


Strong Nuclear forces remain to be one of the least understood processes in nature. Yet it is the source of immense energy that can power our cities, from harnessing the emitted radiation in power-plants; or level countries by concentrating radioactive materials in a bomb. The manner in which the fundamental matter particles (or quarks) exchange the strong force carrying particle (or the gluon boson) is far more complex than any of the other forces (weak nuclear, electromagnetic or gravity). Unlike the other forces, gluons themselves can carry a strong nuclear charge, known as colour charge; this allows them to interact with themselves in-between quark interactions, allowing for infinite scenarios to describe the simplest of processes. 

In Depth:

The study of the strong nuclear force is known as quantum chromodynamics (QCD), this theory helped scientists understand important properties of particle physics, mainly why we only see composite quark states in nature. In other words why you will never find a sole quark by itself, instead you will see it in bound states (hadrons) which form protons and neutrons (baryons) and lighter states such as pions (mesons). But trying to make any practical calculations with QCD is very difficult, so difficult in fact that if anyone were to solve the QCD equation into a usable form then they would win 1 million dollars from the Clay Mathematics Institute!

I do away with these complexities of QCD by only working in energy regimes where the protons and other hadrons won't break down into their constituent quarks. So we can describe proton or neutron scattering through pion exchange instead of using gluons. Furthermore, I take advantage of some symmetries present in QCD, related to the quark masses, to simplify aspects of the calculations. This is a very vague picture of the theory I work in called Chiral Perturbation Theory (ChPT).


My work has been motivated by a recent experiment in Germany at the Mainz Microtron by the A2 and CB-TAPS collaborations where they have obtained the most accurate data to date on this interaction. I am in the process of taking theories that have already been made to describe parts of this process and sticking them together to get a more complete picture of the reaction. The most important part I have included is an intermediate resonance state prior to pion emission.

This research isn't going to be part of the new fastest computer in 20 years time, nor is it going to cure diseases. But it will give us an insight in to what happens in nature at the sub-atomic level. Then maybe who knows what this might lead to in the future, 100 years from now it is impossible to predict how important this process will be in understanding nuclear fusion both in power plants or in stars. When Paul Dirac, one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics, predicted the existence of massless Dirac fermions in the 1920s he had no idea that a century later people would be trying to use these states within graphene to dramatically improve technology.

Going Further:

To follow exactly what it is I do I am afraid you will need a degree in theoretical physics, which you can start looking into at the University of Manchester. (http://www.physics.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/undergraduate-courses/physics-with-theoretical-physics-mphys/)

The European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) have lots of information available on particle and nuclear physics (http://home.web.cern.ch/students-educators)

The Jefferson Lab in the USA also has useful information for students and teachers (https://www.jlab.org/education-students)

MAMI, the experimental group that analyse this interaction (http://www.kph.uni-mainz.de/eng/108.php)


 

Science and Engineering have the power to change the world we live in!

Introduction

My name is Marcello and I earned my PhD in particle physics at the University of Manchester, in 2013. Since then, I have been working as a researcher for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). 

STFC is a UK government body that carries out civil research in science and engineering, and funds UK research in areas including particle physics, nuclear physics, space science and astronomy.

I work in the technology department and I am involved in projects dealing with the building of instrumentation for experiments in nuclear physics. This type of instrumentation is not available commercially because it has very particular requirements. Hence, STFC employs dedicated teams of physicists and engineers to build this type of equipment. And I am one of them!

My experience.

I decided to continue my education after the age of 18 and so enrolled in a bachelor’s degree of physics at the University of Manchester. This decision opened up many opportunities in my life.

I gained an objective view of natural phenomena and increased my employability.

Science and engineering have the power to change the world we live in. These subjects produce the most amazing technology and fuel the economy of many countries. For this reason, the analytical thinking of a physicist is highly valued in the job market.

As a student, I did not always find physics easy to understand and did not like all of its different branches equally. My favorite topic is the interaction of radiation with matter, so I decided to specialize in this area for my masters and PhD.

An education in physics gave me the opportunity to study and work in an environment which is professional, multicultural and at the forefront of human knowledge.

From the neighborhood I grew up in, I found myself involved in international projects investigating important questions about our existence. I spent time in laboratories in other countries to exchange information about my work. During this time, I also made strong friendships and discovered new places.

The knowledge I gained in high-school in mathematics, physics and computer science, has been beneficial to my career.

To summarise, I wanted to include some figures about salaries of researches in the initial and middle stages of their careers:

-  PhD student (22-25 years old): about £12,000 per year. 

-  Post-doc researcher (25-35 years old): from £28,000 to £35,000 per year.

-  Academic staff or senior researcher (35-45 years old): from £35,000 to £45,000.

Salaries will increase even further for managerial positions within Universities or Research Institutes and are generally higher in the private sector.

Further details

Apprenticeships are really good opportunities to boost your experience in science and engineering and I’ve found that it is easier to find apprenticeships in engineering than in science. Engineering or IT apprenticeships are valuable opportunities for aspiring scientists.

https://www.stfc.ac.uk/1485.aspx

Some organizations that help people to enter top Universities.

http://www.socialmobility.org.uk/

Get involved and become a STEM Ambassador.

http://www.stemnet.org.uk/