The $10,000 grant has been awarded annually since 2008 for projects that will benefit the research programme at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. Nobuo Sato's project will apply his knowledge of one of the most sophisticated theories ever devised - Quantum Chromodynamics - to understand the protons and neutrons in the heart of everyday matter. Quantum Chromodynamics is the theory of the particles and forces that build our universe at the scale of protons and neutrons inside atoms.
"Today, we know that the protons are made of quarks and gluons. And what we ultimately want to know is how these particles called quarks and gluons are situated inside protons", he explained. Nobuo Sato is contributing to that effort by extracting very specific scenarios from the theory of Quantum Chromodynamics that match the scenarios that experimenters produce in Jefferson Lab's research programme.
For instance, his calculations involve so-called parton distribution functions and transverse momentum distributions. These are mathematical descriptions derived from Quantum Chromodynamics that, simply put, can describe how the quarks and gluons move inside the proton and how they are extracted in relation to the probe being used to measure them in experiments.
He said these quantities are dynamic and their extraction depends on the experimental conditions. So, for each experiment, the connection of parton distribution functions and transverse momentum distributions to experimental measurements will need to be re-calculated from the theory in order to compare with the experimental data. Nobuo Sato said he plans to use part of the research grant to conduct the calculations by accessing the computing power offered by Amazon Web Services.
"One needs to use a highly elaborate data analysis framework. We have to use data and the theory in order to compare, and the theoretical calculations are computationally expensive", Nobuo Sato explained. "This is where having some support to be able to access larger computing resources helps. It will allow me to work more on the theory side, rather than spending so much time on the computation. I can spend more time on trying to unravel nucleon structure."
The JSA Postdoctoral Research Grant is awarded annually by the Jefferson Lab Users Group Board of Directors. The group represents the scientists who come to Jefferson Lab to use its unique facilities to conduct research.
In making the award, the board judges each applicant on his or her record of accomplishment in physics, proposed use of the research grant and the likelihood of further accomplishments in the Jefferson Lab research fields. The grant is funded by the JSA Initiatives Fund program, which is provided by Jefferson Science Associates to support programs, initiatives and activities that further the scientific outreach, and promote the science, education and technology missions of Jefferson Lab and benefit the laboratory's user community.
According to Larry Weinstein, outgoing Chair of the Users Group and professor and eminent scholar at Old Dominion University, Nobuo Sato's project was one of many competitive applications.
"This year's postdoc prize entries spanned a remarkable range of topics, from detector development to theoretical analysis", Larry Weinstein stated. "Once again, it was difficult choosing the winner from the superb array of well-qualified applications."
"I'm very pleased to get something that is going to be helpful for doing this research", Nobuo Sato stated. "What I'm doing is part of this 12 GeV era, and I am happy to be able to use my skills to help achieve the common goals."