Yuri Shirman

Physics & astronomy assistant professor
Q: What is your involvement in the LHC?

A: I am working on theoretical ideas describing possible new physics phenomena at energy scales that will be probed by the LHC. One of my research goals is to come up with new models that can be either discovered or ruled out by the LHC experiments. Once LHC data is available, many existing models will be ruled out, while some others likely will be favored by the data. At that point, one of the main tasks facing the theorists will be to refine our models and come up with a predictive theory describing all of the existing experimental data.

Q: What do you hope to learn?

A: We expect the LHC will explain the origin of mass for known particles. Many particle physicists hope the LHC will discover new particles and interactions or even extra dimensions of space-time, but discovery of something unexpected would be even more exciting. I hope that new particles seen at the LHC will give us important clues to guide future research, and in particular, help us understand why gravity is so much weaker than other forces in nature.

Q: How might this knowledge benefit the public?

A: One can certainly argue that technologies developed during the construction and operation of the LHC will find applications in many aspects of modern life. History tells us that most discoveries of fundamental laws of nature benefit humanity in ways that could not be envisioned at the time discoveries were made. I think the biggest benefit to the public will be indirect – by contributing to our long quest to better understand the world we live in.

Q: Why are you personally interested?

A: I have always found exciting the search for an understanding of physics at the shortest distance scales. Particle physics is one of several research areas that grew out of discovery of relativity and quantum physics in the 20th century. Both directly and through their connections to cosmology and astrophysics, the results of particle physics experiments will improve our understanding of some of the most fundamental laws of nature.