As physics students know, the subatomic world is described by the Standard Model of particle physics – the modern theory of elementary particles and their interactions. This theory is incredibly successful in the way it captures the structure of Nature.
The results of innumerable experiments, carried out at major particle accelerators world-wide, agree with the predictions of the Standard Model. However, as with other physical theories, the Standard Model has only a certain range of validity.
It is believed that at very high energies (not yet produced in particle accelerators), or very short distances (much shorter than the 10-17 cm we can currently probe), the Standard Model should be embedded into a more fundamental theoretical scheme.
Unveiling physics beyond the Standard Model is one of the dominant quests of modern physics. Guided by very general first-principle considerations, theorists have suggested several extensions of the Standard Model.
The most promising ones – Supersymmetric Quantum Field Theories and String Theory – are quite different in their technical details but have one common structural aspect, supersymmetry.
This is a dynamical symmetry that ties together the two fundamental building blocks of nature: the particles of matter (such as electrons and protons) and the mediators of interaction (such as photons or gluons). In a sense, supersymmetry is similar to Tolkien's Ruling Ring. Professor Edward Witten, the greatest living theoretical physicist, has said: "the search for supersymmetry is one of the great dramas in present-day physics".
The major American and European universities have strong research areas in supersymmetric field theory, supergravity and string theory. In this, UWA is an Australian leader.
The Supersymmetric Quantum Field Theory Group in the School of Physics is unique nationally and has solid expertise and an international reputation.
Over the past six years, the group has produced several important breakthroughs. It collaborates with some of the major research institutions overseas, including the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Germany, Imperial College London and the University of Maryland in the USA. World-leading theorists have visited the group in Perth.
In July, the School of Physics hosted Professor Sylvester James (Jim) Gates Jr, from the University of Maryland. He is one of the founding fathers of so-called "superfield supergravity" and gave a highly successful public lecture titled Modern Cosmology and Superstring Theory: Can They Co-exist?
Professor Gates and Associate Professor Sergei Kuzenko have collaborated for sixteen years on various problems of supersymmetric theories and this has resulted in nine joint publications in premier journals. Their ongoing projects include the studies of higher spin supersymmetric theories and supergravity in extra dimensions.
This research is supported by the ARC Discovery grant "Progress in Supersymmetry and Supergravity: Continuing Einstein's Legacy" jointly with Associate Professor Ian McArthur.