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PhD candidate Jack Araz finds cracks in our understanding of the universe

The Concordia grad researcher studies dark matter and probes ever closer to the beginning of time
November 14, 2018
Jack Araz: “Humanity has a comprehensive understanding of the universe, but it explains too little.”
Jack Araz: “Humanity has a comprehensive understanding of the universe, but it explains too little.”

It’s a question as old as time: What is the origin of everything? Finding the answer to this existential query is what drives Jack Araz’s current research at Concordia.

A fourth year PhD candidate in the Department of Physics, Araz investigates our understanding of the fabric of the universe, particularly as it relates to dark matter. He is a member of the Mariana Frank Research Group, as well as past president of the Graduate Physics Association.

Araz is also an active member of Concordia’s research community. He recently published his work in the Journal of High Energy Physics, and he gave presentations at Sorbonne Université in Paris, Sapienza — Università di Roma and the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) in Italy.

It all started as a simple personal curiosity

How does this specific image relate to your research at Concordia?

Jack Araz: My research aims to interpret the very beginning of space and time with what we observe today. My job as a researcher is to find the cracks in our understanding of the universe and propose a theoretical framework to explain what we perceive, most importantly, dark matter.

This image is a snapshot of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC is a particle accelerator that has four detectors, two of which relate to my research. After we establish a framework that can explain certain problems in our understanding of high energy physics, we set up computer simulations to predict if it's possible to discover this model in future experiments.

What is the hoped-for result of your project?

JA: Our work seeks to understand the structure of dark matter. We are trying to develop new computational approaches and methodologies to help people push the boundaries of their research.

What are some of the major challenges you face in your research?

JA: Computational limitations are often major obstacles. We usually need to compute extremely complicated models, which, in theory, can explain the behaviour of particles from the beginning of the universe until today. It is not possible to build a computer that has the power to simulate such a vast model with the snap of a finger. Given this, we always need to find algorithms that are more efficient and use machine learning to locate statistical fluctuations.

What are some of the key areas where your work could be applied?

JA: While it is sometimes hard to predict an application for such a theoretical framework, it is possible to apply our methodologies to any information-based analysis.

What person, experience or moment in time first inspired you to study this subject and get involved in the field?

JA: It all started as a simple personal curiosity — I wanted to understand the origin of everything. How did we get here? However, each step only raised more questions. Humanity has a comprehensive understanding of the universe, but it explains too little. To this day, I'm pursuing my PhD with this curiosity in mind.

How can interested STEM students get involved in this line of research? What advice would you give them?

JA: Having a good grasp of mathematics is important in this particular field. Students also need to be open to new ideas. Since it is extremely challenging to do extensive calculations, learning various computer languages is always helpful and leads to quicker and more accurate results.

What do you like best about being at Concordia?

JA: I appreciate the freedom I have in my research and the possibility to collaborate with people worldwide.

Are there any partners, agencies or other funding/support attached to your research?

JA: We are currently collaborating with researchers from different universities such as Sorbonne, Durham University, the INFN and the University of Strasbourg. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) funds our research. I also received support from the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur.

Learn more about Concordia’s Department of Physics.



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