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과학의 창

New Challenges

작성자 : Stefano Scopel ㅣ 등록일 : 2020-08-01 ㅣ 조회수 : 229

Stefano Scopel 
Center for Quantum Spacetime / Director
Sogang University / Professor

This year marks the 16th anniversary of my arrival to Korea. At that time I faced the challenge of moving to a new country, and I could not imagine that I would eventually join the Physics Department of Sogang University and call Seoul home. But a healthy life requires continuous challenges, so 2020 marks a new page in my life in Korea: I became the new director of the Center of Quantum Space Time (CQUeST) in Sogang University.

 

The CQUeST research center exists since 2004, and has gained ever since a reputation for excellent research in Fundamental Physics both at the national and international level, thanks to the hard work and unstoppable ingenuity of its founder and first director, Prof. Bum-Hoon Lee. This year CQUeST was selected by the Ministry of Education to receive additional support for up to 9 years, and now has an impressive goal within reach: 24 years of uninterrupted research operation.

 

CQUeST's goal will be to gather experts in different areas of Physics to address the most fascinating and challenging puzzles of modern physics: what is the quantum nature of time? What is the Universe made of? Is there an equation of everything unifying all interactions? and many more. In CQUeST we plan to address such problems and many more both by capitalizing on the many past achievements and the long experience accumulated so far and with fresh ideas and perspectives. In this optic, my colleagues concluded that a foreign director would be suitable to this goal. Being aware of my many shortcomings, not least my still poor knowledge of the Korean language (in spite the long time spent here and of the fact that my wife is Korean) I accepted this new role with humbleness and enthusiasm at the same time, and above all a deep sense of gratitude toward my colleagues, whose support and kindness have been fundamental to me since I joined Sogang University 10 years ago. Needless to say, I still have to learn a lot from them before feeling up to my new role.

 

The new keywords that will mark CQUeST’s activity will be multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. Indeed, these are the keywords that marked my scientific career since the very beginning: after writing a Ph.D. thesis on the phenomenology of Superymmetric theories I spent my first post-doc in the experimental group of the Canfranc laboratory, literally in the bowels of the Earth under the Pirenees mountains at the border between Spain and France, searching with ionizators, scintillators and bolometers for the same hypothetical particles that populated the equations of my thesis. Alas, I did not find them, but I had the opportunity to reach out to a different community of physicists, cementing friendships and learning concepts that would help me for the rest of my career (along the way I also learned, among other things, how to build a Faraday cage fixing hundreds of screws, and had to lift dozens of ancient roman lead bricks to shield a detector against external radiation).

 

At the threshold of the 4th industrial revolution multidisciplinarity is now even more crucial for the next generation of top-level young scientists. For this reason in CQUeST we plan to focus on organizing common activities among the members of different research groups, especially the younger ones, so that they can develop as early as possible the habit of cross talk among different branches of research (Cosmology, Particle Physics, String Theory, Quantum Gravity) and among different approaches (model builders, phenomenologists, experimentalists) before the many commitments of maturity make the barriers of different jargons, conventions and expertise insurmountable. CQUeST has about 20 members divided in three groups: a first group whose work is mainly focused on effective models of modified gravity and their effect on observational Cosmology; a second group working on Black Hole Physics and conceptual problems in Quantum Gravity; a third group, to which I belong, working on Astroparticle Physics and Particle Physics Phenomenology. While the specific interests of the three groups are different, our main goal and challenge is to find new perspective and fresh ideas by merging our different know-hows and approaches. This will imply to learn from each other within CQUeST and to be open to the outside world. Indeed, we have already started a new “Tutorial Lectures Series” program where both CQUeST members and external guests introduce their field of expertise at the pedagogic level and advertise its relevance to experts of other research areas. Of course we also plan to organize regular seminars, workshops, journal clubs, and to start a blog where everybody will be free to comment on the scientific news of the day. After the Covid19 emergency CQUeST followed the general trend and moved all its public events on the WEB, so interested outsiders will be welcome. To be completely honest CQUeST is still missing a fundamental ingredient: a good espresso machine. This is no negligible fault for a coffee-gulping Italian like me. However, we are working on it.

 

I look forward to start this new journey. Its final destination is no doubt exciting. The real secret of a good trip is to have good traveling companions: in CQUeST, Sogang and Korea I found excellent ones.

(scopel@sogang.ac.kr)

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