Programs PhD in Loop Quantum Gravity

  1. Apr 3, 2011 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I will soon finish my B.Sc. in mathematics & physics, and I'm currently reviewing options for PhD. One of the subjects that interest me the most is LQG, but most places I've checked (MIT, Caltech, Harvard etc.) don't seem to acknowledge its existence...

    Please, recommend places where I can study for a PhD in LQG. The only requirements are that it must be in an English-speaking country (UK, USA, Canada or Australia), and there must be at least two people conducting active LQG research there (at least one of them taking graduate students). I already know about:

    * Perimeter Institute
    * Penn State
    * Waterloo
    * Nottingham

    Any other suggestions?

    Thank you
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2011 #2
    Finding a place to do a PhD in theoretical physics is very hard. If you are going to limit yourself using criteria that virtually eliminate all possibilities before you start applying then you had better be close to the best candidate in your year group worldwide.
  4. Apr 3, 2011 #3
    Have you contacted Lee Smolin directly? He does reply.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2014
  5. Apr 3, 2011 #4
    I haven't thought of that. Perhaps I'll try contacting him. Thanks!

    Any other comments on the matter will be appreciated.

    PS: Please don't turn this into yet another ST vs. LQG thread...
  6. Apr 3, 2011 #5
    To answer your question. Louisiana State University is not on your list. You should add them to your list and consider them for your PhD. They have Jorge Pullin, Kristina Giesel, and Parampreet Singh working in Loops.

    Good luck in your studies.
  7. Apr 3, 2011 #6


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    Here is a world map with locations. Enlarge and click on locations to get names of permanent+postdoc people and some email addresses

    Also I copied out some information from the map last year
    The map gets updated so what I copied out is not necessarily up to date.

    I suggest you look into the possibility of UC Berkeley even though there is only one permanent faculty involved (Robert Littlejohn). He is advisor to Hal Haggard who expects to complete his PhD this year. For whatever reason, Haggard's LQG research is good. It's a new development that Berkeley has LQG--you might talk to Haggard and see how Berkeley looks from the Loop PhD student's perspective.

    Personally, if I was in your shoes and finishing a (good) M.Sci. and I had a strong interest in Loop, I would certainly write to Carlo Rovelli and ask his advice. I would write soon. His group at Marseille is an international mix. Probably most or all know English. Rovelli taught for years in the US (at U. of Penn). Rovelli might suggest you apply and/or give you some good advice about places to apply in Englishspeaking countries.

    It often happens that Ashtekar PhDs go to Marseille for postdoc, and Marseille PhDs come to Penn State for postdoc. If you do a successful PhD in Loop then sooner or later you will probably pass through Marseille, so you might as well write asking for advice now and see if Rovelli (although busy) answers.

    It is a small field, only around 200 active researchers, most of whom know each other or have met in person.

    If you can't get advice directly from Rovelli (if he is too busy to answer informatively) and you have to rely on what we say here, then here is my personal opinion. Right now (although there are other centers developing) I would go for either Penn State or Marseille. The two best places, in my personal view. I wouldn't let the language problem put me off, if I could get into the program at Marseille. (most Europeans speak at least some English and university communities tend to be cosmopolitan.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2014
  8. Apr 3, 2011 #7
    Thanks, marcus! That was very helpful information. :)
    (And thanks vicnice, too.)

    I wonder, marcus, what is your connection to LQG?

    Also, note that I'm finishing a B.Sc., not an M.Sc. I'm thinking about studying for an M.Sc. (in theoretical particle physics) and only then applying for a PhD, though. Do you think this would be a better idea than applying for a PhD right now?
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011
  9. Apr 3, 2011 #8
    Sorry for interrupting in this discussion. If you haven't studied LQG or string theory at a technical level, do an M.Sc first, study both subjects seriously, and make a decision based on that. Popular books, such as Smolin's or Greene's, should never be taken as valid guides to what research field suits you. Since a decision to study LQG will severely limit your career possibilities, you need to make sure you are making a *very* well informed decision.
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  10. Apr 3, 2011 #9


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    OK, for a M.Sc. are you aware that John Barrett has inititated a one year Masters program at Nottingham? It prepares for a variety of different PhD directions. (Including but certainly not exclusively, Loop.)

    The deadline for application for MSc scholarships is in late May 2011 for entering Fall 2011

    Europe is way ahead of US in QG and Barrett is an important guy. He directs the QG funding agency of the ESF (European Science Foundation) and he has a policy of bringing together various QG approaches like Loop, Noncommutative Geometry, Field theory on NC or curved spaces, String, etc.
    Here is the site of the ESF-QG funding agency (Quantum Geometry and Quantum Gravity network)
    This has a list of conferences and workshops they have sponsored.

    If you are interested in QG of any sort it would be good to be in the UK because you are closer to the European leading edge and a short hop to the workshops and conferences. You are more likely to hear talks by the people that matter in the field.

    Nottingham's MSc is general purpose prep/intro to all the areas (Barrett has himseld done important contribution both to Spinfoam LQG and to Alain Connes NCG (realizing the standard model in NC geometry). He is not limited.

    I would make every effort to get into the Nottingham MSc program.
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  11. Apr 3, 2011 #10


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    Here's Barrett's homepage

    Here is the page about the MSc program

    It is a ONE YEAR masters in Gravity, Particles and Fields
    The course provides an introduction to the physical principles and mathematical techniques of current research in general relativity, quantum gravity, particle physics, quantum field theory, quantum information theory, cosmology and the early universe.
    The programme of study includes a taught component of closely-related modules in this popular area of mathematical physics. The course also includes a substantial project that will allow students to develop their interest and expertise in a specific topic at the frontier of current research, and develop their skills in writing a full scientific report.
    The course will provide training in advanced methods in mathematics and physics which have applications in a wide variety of scientific careers and provide students with enhanced employability compared with undergraduate Bachelors degrees. In particular, it will provide training appropriate for students preparing to study for a PhD in the research areas listed above. For those currently in employment, the course will provide a route back to academic study.
    Entry requirements: At least a second class honours (2:2) BSc degree (or equivalent from other countries) in Physics, Mathematical Physics or Mathematics, or joint degrees containing substantial elements of physics or mathematics.
    Other requirements: Previous knowledge of mechanics, quantum mechanics, special relativity and methods of mathematical physics (all as taught typically at BSc level 2) is required.
    IELTS: 6.0 (with no less than 5.0 in any element)
    TOEFL paper based: 550 (with at least 4.0 on the TWE)
    TOEFL IBT: 79 (with no less than 17 in any element)


    I am guessing that you are familiar already with the information in these two posts, but I want to make sure of that.

    As an example of the vision that is evident in European QG research, you might look at the website of a conference that Barrett's ESF-QG agency is sponsoring this summer in Zurich.
    It brings together Loop, NCG, String, SUGRA, Field on Curved space---speakers chosen from the indicated lines of research who the organizers think are prepared to talk to each other and exchange ideas. Amazing conference, first of its kind. Barrett is one of the organizers, with Carlo Rovelli, Hermann Nicolai (MPI Potsdam, string) and some other top people.

    Years ahead of QG in US. These are the kind of people to be around.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2011
  12. Apr 3, 2011 #11


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    I have no professional connection to LQG. I'm a retired mathematician. I'm interested in LQG because it gives a concrete definite handle on cosmology that resolves the BB singularity and a new math representation of geometry of space and time that does not depend on the differential manifold (invented by Riemann in 1850, time for a change.)

    String is deeply rooted in the diffy manifold---and conventional manifold geometry. I would like to see us get a completely new fresh handle on space and time.

    So Loop commands my attention, as an observer from the sidelines, without my having any particular connection to it.


    Do I think do an MSc first? Yes especially if you can get in at Nottingham. Europe is the place to be (including UK) for QG. And since you want to be in an all Englishspeaking environment, the UK seems obvious. So do a Masters in UK, and you are at least on the doorstep. A kind of "beach-head" to more international study situation.

    US leadership has way overinvested in String, which has gone stale. New directions are happening in Europe (and UK). Need to be exposed to people who are more clearsighted.
    For the next few years the US string program will have to RECYCLE its resources by shifting into APPLICATIONS of stringy math, like applications in condensed matter, to superconductivity. Just to give its people something to do. The mood and concerns are going to center on damage control, and on salesmanship (marketing the techniques.) Just my two bits, personal opinion. I don't think the prospects are terribly interesting. And string job market is bad.

    By contrast Rovelli PhDs (and Thiemann PhDs) seem to have little trouble moving on in academia, at least for the time being. Loop is in a phase of rapid growth. As you can see from that Google map. Also much of the growth is outside the US. Like Hanno Sahlmann taking a job at the AsianPacific ITP in Korea, to run their new Loop QG program. Like Florian Girelli going to Uni Sydney Australia. Like Catherine Meusberger starting a program at Uni Hamburg Germany. Many departments seem to be thinking that they should start some nonstring QG, and there is growth potential because most of them start from zero.

    It is a very small program, as I said. Only some 200 active people. Most of the active people are Rovelli, Thiemann, or Ashtekar PhDs.

    Check out Rovelli's website (it's in English :biggrin:)

    So yeah, do a Masters that sets you up for a possible move to European PhD program. The US is no longer Mecca for physics theory. Pick a Masters program that gives you a range of options, not just Loop, not just String.

    Again this is just advice from a bystander, not someone actively involved.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2014
  13. Apr 4, 2011 #12


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    You've been giving a lot of really awesome info in this thread! LQG is an area I am myself interested in, and in a similar situation to the OP. Unfortunately, I don't know too terribly much about it (other than very basic stuff).

    For someone interested in learning if this is a research path they'd be interested in, are there any books, papers, or articles you would recommend reading? I suppose a review paper could be nice, but hopefully not completely unreadable to an undergraduate. Just something to get a sense of the general problems in the theory, current efforts, main ideas, etc.
  14. Apr 4, 2011 #13


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    Thanks for your feedback, Nabeshin, I'm glad you found some of this useful and to the point!

    The most recent reviews are Rovelli's 1102.3660 (of the main theory) and Ashtekar's 1005.5491 (of the application to cosmology).

    Rovelli's is aimed at grad student level, for people preparing to enter research, but it is a "pedagogical" review, in the sense that it has condensed summaries of math prerequisites that serve as "reminders" of stuff like the irreducible reps of SU(2) and such. And it has some "homeworks" at various points in the text, in small type.

    It also has a list of problems at the end, some of which could suggest PhD thesis problems or research topics for postdocs to think about.

    1102.3660 was prepared to serve as basis for a set of 8 lectures given March 2011 at a 2-week "school" at the ski resort Zakopane, so it is called "Zakopane Lectures". It is too condensed (22 pages+biblio) to serve as a textbook. You would have to be with other students and be getting help and coaching, and extra explanation on the whiteboard/blackboard. But it doubtless served a useful function for the Zakopane students, something to take home with the gist of what was covered in the actual lectures. The Loop community does one of these schools every couple of years. John Barrett's ESF-QG agency funds them. He started the practice in 2007.

    So 1102.3660 could serve as a review paper (even though too condensed to learn from like a textbook) giving ideas of the main ideas, notation, math prerequisites, open problems currently being addressed. That would be a partial answer to your question.

    There is also a review paper for non-specialists 1012.4707 which is more historical, and general-overviewy. It is called Loop Gravity: the first 25 years. It explains how the ideas developed, from the various roots in earlier lines of research, how they evolved. It glosses over the harder stuff and is more "easy reading". But actually that can be very helpful!
    It is not for grad students ready to enter research! It is more for other physicists who are not doing Loop and who just want a general idea of what loopsters do and how they think.
    And historical development is one way to grasp ideas.

    This article was written for a special issue of a journal, I think "Classical and Quantum Gravity" which has just or will be coming out.

    Abhay Ashtekar regularly does a pretty good authoritative review of Loop Cosmology. What I mentioned is just the review he has done most recently. If you take a look at it, you could let me know how it works for you.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2011
  15. Apr 6, 2011 #14
    Thanks, that is good advice.
  16. Apr 6, 2011 #15
    Marcus - thank you so much for all the information! You've been very helpful.

    The Master's program at Nottingham seems excellent. I would be very happy to take it. However, after giving it some thought I have decided to study for an M.Sc. here. The reason is that I have to take 4 more courses to complete my B.Sc. next (fall) semester. If I study for an M.Sc. here, I can start it next year while simultaneously finishing my B.Sc., which will not be possible at other places.

    So next year I will study advanced quantum mechanics and quantum field theory (both are year-long courses), and this might allow me to understand some articles (including the ones you have mentioned above) and books about LQG. Then I will decide whether to study here for another year and finish my M.Sc., or perhaps go straight to a PhD in whatever area I will feel is right for me.

    By the way, Nabeshin, you might be interested in this book, estimated to be published in 4 months:
    I'll certainly buy it when it comes out.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2014
  17. Apr 7, 2011 #16
    Now that you are talking about the MSc at Nottingham. Anyone around has any idea of how is this course compared to similar ones? I have an offer there, although I am more interested in string cosmology.
  18. Apr 28, 2011 #17
    Why don't you try to submit your curriculum vitae in sites that may help to hunt a work place for you, there is a possibility you find one in the countries you mentioned above and I know a good company will hire you, and if not, try to be open to work in other countries, yet It will be great for you to learn different language and it could be your advantage, you know most company prefer their men who can understand 2 or more spoken languages.
  19. Jun 25, 2013 #18
    Studying Loop Quantum Gravity

    I put together some informations for students interested in LQG:
    I hope you will find it useful, also comments/advises/requests are welcomed.

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