Dr. ​Gianluca Sarri
Reader in Physics at Queen's University Belfast, UK
E-mail address:
0044 (0)2890973575
Centre for Plasma Physics
Queen's University Belfast
University Road
BT71NN, Belfast
United Kingdom
PhD position available 

Strong Field Quantum Electrodynamics experiments
at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC)

First Supervisor:        Dr. Gianluca Sarri ([email protected])
Second Supervisor:  Prof. Marco Borghesi ([email protected]

How to apply:  - Send a CV and a presentation letter (maximum 1 page A4 on your motivation to
                                            apply) to [email protected] by the 17th of February.
                                           - Interviews to take place on the 21st of February.

                                           - The PhD starts on the 1st of October 2019.

Project background and description: Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) is one of the most advanced theories in modern physics, elegantly combining quantum mechanics and special relativity in a unified and powerful manner. In the low-field regime, QED has been tested and validated up to unprecedented precision. However, the high-field limit is still only speculatively accessed experimentally. In this regime, exotic and yet fundamental phenomena are expected to occur, such as vacuum breakdown, photon-photon scattering, pair production, and radiation reaction, i.e., the back-action of the radiation emitted by an electron on itself [1]. Fields in excess of the critical field of QED, or Schwinger field (~1.3x1018 V/m), have to be generated in order to trigger these phenomena. These ultra-intense fields are believed to be present in a wide and diverse range of physical scenarios, such as the atmosphere of ultra-massive astrophysical objects, the early Universe, and the inner regions of atoms. However, they have not been produced in the laboratory yet, limiting our experimental knowledge of this exciting branch of physics only to indirect observations.

     Recently, the group of Dr. G. Sarri and collaborators has been able, for the first time, to access this high-field regime by exploiting the interaction of a highly relativistic electron beam with an intense lase pulse, providing the first experimental indication of the quantum nature of radiation reaction [2-4]. The success of these experiments granted 3 years of access to the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) in the period 2019 – 2022 to carry out systematic studies of high-field Quantum Electrodynamics. These campaigns will be carried out in collaboration with world-leading universities including Stanford, Princeton, UCLA, and Ecole Polytechnique and they will provide the first experimental evidence of a series of iconic phenomena in modern physics, effectively inaugurating a new branch of experimental physics.

     The successful candidate will take an active role in designing and performing these experiments at SLAC, working at the forefront of experimental physics worldwide. The work will be carried out under the supervision of Dr. G. Sarri and Prof. M. Borghesi and in collaboration with world-leading Universities, including Stanford, Princeton, UCLA, and Ecole Polytechnique. The majority of the experimental work will be carried out at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) and financial support for several periods of work at SLAC will be provided to the successful candidate.  

To be eligible, candidates should hold at least a 2.1 BSc (or equivalent) in Physics or relevant subject.

Skills: The student will gain skills at the frontier of ultra-intense laser science, detector design, particle physics, and accelerator physics. Also, the necessary coding skills for advanced data analysis and numerical modelling will be developed. Finally, the successful candidate will be encouraged to organise and lead sizeable research teams and present their work at international conferences and in high-profile scientific publications.

[1] A. DiPiazza et al., Rev. Mod. Phys. 84, 1177 (2012).
[2] G. Sarri et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 224801 (2014).
[3] K. Poder et al., Phys. Rev. X 8, 031004 (2018).
[4] J. Cole et al., Phys. Rev. X 8, 011020 (2018)    

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