The 2020 semester brochure from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Branch highlighted the research of Tomasz Skwarnicki, professor of physics at the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), and a team of its employees. The brochure presented the group’s discovery of new details about the pentaquark’s substructure.
Every two years, the NSF publishes an MPS brochure that describes each of its five divisions, which include astronomical sciences, chemistry, materials research, mathematical sciences, and physics.
Although initially slated for a 2020 release, the latest edition is currently being released due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
MPS funds about $ 1.4 billion in research each year, with the Physics Division spending about $ 290 million. Only two research highlights from each division are presented in the brochure, making this a notable achievement for Skwarnicki and the A&S Physics Department.
In 2019, Skwarnicki was part of a team that uncovered new information about a class of particles called pentaquarks. Quarks are subatomic particles that combine to form the atoms that make up matter.
A pentaquark is a particle containing five quarks. Skwarnicki and his international collaborators, harnessing the beauty of the Large Hadron Collider (LHCb) at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider near Geneva in Switzerland, determined that instead of being composed of five closely related quarks, pentaquarks are instead composed of two smaller structures, one containing three quarks and its partner the other two.
“To be selected as one of the two most significant findings of the past two years out of such a wide range of NSF-funded research is a testament to the importance of these findings, which is also reflected in the sheer number of citations in the articles. tracking physics published in popular physics journals and scientific media attention, ”says Skwarnicki. “These results have really advanced our understanding of existing structures on the smallest scale that humans are able to probe. “
Skwarnicki’s work is presented on page 22 of the MPS 2020 Brochure.