Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Building a group

Those who follow my twitter feed have already seen that I will become a full professor at the Institute of Physics at the University of Graz in Austria from October on. This also implies that I will be building up a group to continue my research on the standard model of particle physics and beyond.

I would like to use this opportunity to write a little bit about what happens behind the scenes right now, rather than something about the outcome of the research we are doing. Such a 'behind-the-scene' look is also interesting, I think, since it shows how research is done, not only what it finds. Hence, I may write such entries more often in the future. If you have any comments or thoughts on this, I would be happy to read your opinion.

One of the major tasks right now for me is to decide what will be the research focus of this group, and how I will organize the resources I will have for this purpose. These are the most important steps, as I have to decide which kind of positions I will open (especially for PhD and master theses), as well as which kind of computers I have to arrange for. Since I will now have the resources to work on more projects than before, this means to structure my activities, such that I get not lost. It would not do to think that now that I have more possibilities I should just jump into many new fields, putting each and every member of the group on a separate topic. In the long run, I will have to take care that methods and techniques developed and used in my group will be handed down from one generation of students to the next. This will only be possible, if the topics they are applied to are sufficiently close that this is meaningfully possible. That is particularly true for my numerical and technically more involved analytical tools.

As a consequence, I decided to establish two main directions. One will be concerned with neutron stars. The other will be looking at Higgs physics, continuing my research on combinations of Higgs particles.

But, of course, just staying with what I already do will not be sufficient. Especially, as there are so many interesting problems offering themselves, like the one of electric charge on which I wrote last time. Since the technology I have accumulated so far is more than sufficient to start working on it, without needing to first invent a new approach, it is a natural way to expand. The same is true for the so-called technicolor theories, on which I did some exploratory work in the past. Hence I decided to make the first new additions to my research fields in these areas. Also, both can be done with already the present infrastructure, so I do not need to wait for new one.

Now that I decided what to do, I still have to make it happen. What are the steps I will have to take? The most important goal is to have some students with whom I can work on all these exciting research topics. This will mean to open positions for them, announce them, and find someone for it. This includes not only PhD students, but also master and bachelor students. To reach them, I will have to set up a new web page and other structures to show what I am working on. As important will be to give good lectures in general, and also special lectures about interesting topics. I am looking very much forward to this part. I have already started to prepare the first lecture I will give in the winter term. It will focus on supersymmetry, another candidate for something beyond the standard model.

In the long run, I will have to acquire third-party funding, to enlarge the group beyond what I will have when I start. That, and the accompanying work, is worth a blog entry on its own, so I will not write about it now. I will return to it at a later time.