Thomas Konstandin

Thomas Konstandin

Deutsche Elektronen Synchrotron DESY, Hamburg, Germany

What led you into science and your chosen area of research?

As a student I was always fascinated by the interplay of cosmology and particle physics. To me it is staggering that you can do experiments in the laboratory that tell you something profound about the evolution of the Universe and how Nature operates on the largest observable scales. One good example for this is so-called 'big bang nucleosynthesis': Using the known properties of nuclei one can successfully predict the abundance of light elements (hydrogen, helium, beryllium, lithium) in the Universe.

Can you describe the results in your paper and their importance for your field?

My review deals with baryogenesis. Baryogenesis is a mechanism that produces the asymmetry between particles and anti-particles as it is observed in the Universe. In particular, the mechanism I am interested in is connected to electroweak energy scales that are currently tested with the LHC at CERN.
On the technical side, this requires to deal with systems that are away from equilibrium but also involve effects that are based on quantum mechanics. The framework that is powerful enough to incorporate these two features is the formalism developed by Schwinger&Keldysh. In the review I discuss how to apply this formalism to baryogenesis from first principles. This allows to make precise predictions for the baryon asymmetry once the properties of the Higgs are known.

What research projects are you working on at the moment?

I currently study what the recently discovered Higgs particle implies otherwise for cosmology. The task of the Higgs in the Standard Model of particle physics is to break the electroweak symmetry. In the Universe this must have happened just nano-seconds after the big bang. The question is if this left any traces that we can observe today. The possibilities range from gravitational waves to magnetic fields. But all this depends on the properties of the Higgs that are not fully known yet.

What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in your field?

Two prime candidates for the next big breakthrough in particle cosmology are for sure the direct observation of dark matter and the discovery of supersymmetry.

What book are you reading right now?

J. M. Coetzee: Waiting for the Barbarians.

If you could have dinner with any 3 people, past or present, who would they be and why?

Three people from different areas with strong personalities would make for good dinner conversation. Since people from the past are explicitly included I might for example choose Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and Wolfgang Pauli.

What has been the most exciting moment in your career so far?

Often, experimental evidence accumulates over time. In contrast, the Higgs discovery was a truly exciting event that changed the scientific landscape.