Carnegie Mellon University
December 05, 2022

Tarnopolsky Named A Principal Investigator for new Simons Collaboration

Researchers from around the world are working together to solve one of the fundamental problems in physics

By Heidi Opdyke

Jocelyn Duffy
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Grigory Tarnopolsky, a new faculty member in Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Physics, has been named one of 13 principal investigators for the new Simons Collaboration on Confinement and Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) Strings.

The collaboration, directed by Igor Klebanov of Princeton University, aims to improve the understanding of the theory of strong interaction of elementary particles known as QCD and explain the phenomenon of color-charged particle confinement. The problem is so fundamental that it's one of the Clay Mathematics Institute's Millennium Problems that carries a $1 million prize for solving.

Elementary particle theory builds on the Quantum Yang-Mills theory, and describes three of the four universal fundamental forces: weak, strong and electromagnetic, leaving apart the gravitational interactions.

QCD is a theory of the strong nuclear force built on the Yang-Mills framework. It is a key component of the Standard Model of particle physics and describes interactions between colored quarks and gluons. Particularly this interaction is responsible for binding protons and neutrons into nuclei. Experiments and computer simulations show that quarks can never be isolated and always bind together in groups, but so far there is no theoretical proof of quark confinement in quantum chromodynamics.

"The idea is to combine people from different particle physics subfields and solve the millennium problem of color confinement," he said. "There are various novel numerical approaches you can apply to study quantum chromodynamics as well as established theoretical methods."

Tarnopolsky is part of a group of researchers applying concepts from condensed matter physics to offer a new view on the problem. His research interests span a variety of problems in high energy and condensed matter physics theory.

"One possible approach to understanding QCD could lie in using analogy with condensed matter physics," Tarnopolsky said.

"At Carnegie Mellon, the high-energy physics group applies quantum field theory methods to condensed matter, high energy and even biophysics problems," he said. "Rather than focusing on only elementary particles, the focus on how to develop the quantum field theory as a universal tool and apply it."

The interdisciplinary nature of Carnegie Mellon's research is what drew Tarnopolsky to the Mellon College of Science after he completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He earned his master's degree from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He was a postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University.

"CMU and the physics department is well known for its interdisciplinary approach. The faculty from different subfields interact quite closely, both within physics and outside the department. It's a big advantage," he said.

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