The Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology

16Jul07

[This post was slightly updated on 27 July 2007.]

Not many physics students in the U.S. may be aware of the PPARC-supported (now STFC) Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (“I-triple-P“) at Durham University. I would like to spread the word about this gem of a research institute. (This post follows from a previous post introducing Durham.)

With the motivation that a university-based group has the benefit of both research council and departmental funding, PPARC decided to found a new UK flagship particle phenomenology institute. An open competition was held for universities to bid to host the new group, which Durham won in 2000, having the benefit of already hosting largest and most prolific (in papers and grad students) phenomenology group in the UK as well as being the host of HEPDATA.

Durham also has the appeal of a geographically central location in the UK, allowing it to reach out to Scottish experimental groups. Nothing in the UK is terribly far away from anything else in the UK, but it helps to be in the `middle’ when hosting conferences and meetings.  This is something that Durham does rather well, organising many workshops and conferences during the course of the year. Highlights include the Annual Theory Meeting, whose list of a previous speakers are a vertable who’s-who of phenomenology, and the Young Experimentalists and Theorists Institute, a school on current/foundational topics of interest to graduate students in particle physics. Such activities, I’ve noticed, are essential for encouraging the collaboration and sense of community that physics thrives upon.

(Update: I’ve been teased for using the term `middle’ to describe Durham’s location — this may be true geographically; but looking at the map of particle physics groups, for example, the journey from Edinburgh takes half of the time as that from London.)

The IPPP is housed within the Durham Centre for Particle Theory (CPT), which itself is a joint venture between the Department of Physics and the Department of Mathematical Sciences. In 2002 the IPPP joined the new Institute for Computational Cosmology under the blanket (and additional funding) of the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics.

The IPPP and CPT are at the forefront of UK research in phenomenology. Indeed, the group stands out in its breadth and depth of expertise. While I’m still new, I can vouch that it provides an excellent and dynamic environment for young graduate students in the fields. The IPPP members that I’ve had the pleasure to talk to all have a genuine fondness for the institute and the unique blend of researchers here.

Speaking of graduate studies, the Centre for Particle Theory runs a one-year MSc. course in “Elementary Particle Theory” with taught and research components. (The PhD students take the courses as part of their first year as well.) This will begin in October for me, but I look forward to the range of topics covered in the lectures. The standard of pedagogy appears to be quite high, as my conversations with first-year students suggest a facility with research tools at the level of more advanced students at US programs.

In addition to the Annual Theory Meetings, the IPPP/CPT’s place in the international phenomenology community was highlighted when it was selected as the host for SUSY05. If you’re familiar with physics blogs, you probably already know with one of the CPT’s former-members.

So for those of you looking at postgraduate programs in phenomenology and those who are going “on tour” with research presentations in the UK, keep Durham and the IPPP in your mind.



5 Responses to “The Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology”

  1. 1 hwasungmars

    Looks like IPPP is puts more weight on particle physics than DAMTP, the group theory course looks particularly interesting.

  2. 2 Annette Dartiere

    Physics is a reductionist science. The string is hypothesized to be the smallest particle of which everything is made. The goal of reductionist physics is to find a few simple principles that underlie complex phenomena. The string theorists invent astonishing physical and mathematical complexity as the end point of reductionism. Well, quite obviously, the end point of reductionism is a theory as Einstein stated that we can teach to the kids and quite obviously not a theory that nobody can understand. When the end point of reductionism is the greatest complexity imaginable it is just plain absurd.

    In 2000 an independent scientist working alone sent a copy of his book, The N-particle Model, to all the physics graduate students at Berkeley. Now he’s back and on the Reference Frame. He claims the universe is made of a single elementary particle that he now names the Ö particle and that particle is neither created nor destroyed. He claims its energy is 2.68138×10^-54 J. He claims the small size of the Ö particle is the reason electric, magnetic, photon and gravity fields appear continuous.

    There is the question about lemmings when they get to the edge of the cliff. Do they choose to jump off or are they responding only to herd instinct or maybe aerodynamically drafted. It looks to me like the theorists are right on the edge.

  3. 3 nitin

    Hi Flip,

    I’m just wondering how flexible the course and research parts of the CPT’s MSc can be. I mean, given that one has already done CASM, one would normally be doing about the same stuff in courses in the MSc programme at Durham, no? So one would normally be wanting to get into the research part as soon as possible, and maybe just do that. I’m just wondering because I have a friend who’s done CASM and he told me that doing a Masters degree after CASM is a bit of a “waste of time” (I haven’t compared the list of courses offered for CAMS and CPT’s MSc, but I thought you could enlighten me). Thing is, I am starting LMU’s MSc programme in Theoretical & Mathematical Physics, and might be moving to the CPT to do my PhD afterwards, so it might help to have an idea.


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