Victor Taveras, a postdoctoral researcher with the Louisiana State University Department of Physics & Astronomy and LSU's Center for Computation & Technology (CCT) has received the Bergmann-Wheeler prize from the International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation.
This prize is an international honor given to only one physics scholar in the world every three years. The Bergmann-Wheeler prize honors Ph.D. candidates whose research brings new and innovative approaches to quantum gravity research. It was instituted in memory of Professors Peter Bergmann (1915-2002) and John Wheeler (1911-2008). They were both pioneers of quantum gravity. With Paul Dirac, Professor Bergmann developed the theory of constrained systems and applied it to the gravitational field. With Albert Einstein, he developed unified field theory and introduced several ideas that have now fundamental to physics of extra dimensions. Professor Wheeler made seminal contributions to nuclear physics and was key to the development of several ideas in the foundations of quantum mechanics and black hole physics. With Bryce DeWitt, he developed canonical quantum gravity and paved the way to quantum cosmology.
The International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation society selected Taveras for the prize for his research into loop quantum gravity, an area of physics research that attempts to reconcile Einstein's theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics.
Taveras' research interests involve applying loop quantum gravity ideas to specific astrophysical phenomena, such as black holes. The equations involved in this research are complex, and physicists often rely on computational technology to solve them and gain insight into the universe at its formation, and how black holes form and evaporate in outer space.
Through his graduate research, Taveras developed a simpler description of how the universe evolved at early times through examining effective equations, which modify Einstein's theory with quantum mechanics processes. These equations, which scientists can solve by hand, still allow them to capture the rich physics they normally can only see by solving the quantum equations with computers.
Taveras received his doctorate in physics at Penn State University, and came to LSU in August 2009 to work with physics professor and CCT Interim co-Director Jorge Pullin, whose research specialty is quantum physics and black holes. Pullin's group works to solve the Einstein equations for the binary black hole problem using supercomputers, using LSU computing technology such as SuperMike, a general-purpose, parallel Beowulf-class supercomputer with 1,024 Intel 1.8 GHz Xeon DP processors that can be used to help solve a wide variety of challenging science and engineering problems.
With Pullin, Taveras is now applying loop quantum gravity ideas to study the formation and evaporation of black holes as they disintegrate in the universe.
The International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation will formally present Taveras with his award at a conference in Mexico City in July 2010.