2016 Bergmann-Wheeler Thesis Prize winner: Lisa Glaser

Lisa Glaser

Lisa Glaser is currently a Research Fellow at University of Nottingham, and will (from September 2016) join Renate Loll’s group at the Radboud Universitet in Nijmegen with a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship to explore renormalisation in discrete theories of quantum gravity.
You can follow her on Twitter. 

1. Tell us about your thesis

During my Ph.D. I worked on causal dynamical triangulations and causal set theory. While these approaches are very different at first sight, upon closer examination they show important similarities. In both theories we try to solve the path integral over geometries by introducing a regularisation.

In causal dynamical triangulations the regularisation are simplices, which scale away in the continuum limit, while causal set theory proposes a fundamental smallest volume of space-time events. Another similarity is that both of these theories try to incorporate the Lorentzian structure of space-time into the theory. In causal dynamical triangulations this is implemented through a foliated structure that the manifold has to obey (although recent work suggests that this foliation requirement can be relaxed), while causal set theory uses the causal structure of space-time to encode all the information of geometry.

In my thesis, I collect work on both of these theories. Probably the bit of work in there I like most, even though it has not gathered much attention yet, is “Towards a Definition of Locality in a Manifoldlike Causal Set” with Sumati Surya. In this paper we establish a quantity that can be used to measure locality and dimension on causal sets.

2. What inspired your interest in Quantum Gravity and why did you choose this topic for your PhD?

I can’t really remember when I decided to study quantum gravity, what I remember is spending afternoons in high school discussing Stephen Hawking’s book with a friend. So I definitely enrolled at university thinking I would like to work on quantum gravity, and tried to work towards this direction from the beginning.

My first contact with quantum gravity research was during my Masters, at Imperial College I met Fay Dowker and she introduced me to causal set theory, which later became part of my thesis.

3. What are you working on right now and what do you like most about that area of research?

My newest endeavour is concerned with non-commutative geometry. Together with John Barrett, I am trying to apply the tools of Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulations to calculating a non-perturbative path integral over geometries.

This project feels very much like a natural continuation of things I have done before, but the mathematical framework of non-commutative geometry is fascinating and I really enjoy learning it.

4. You completed your research at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, what were your favourite things about working there?

The Niels Bohr institute was a really cool place to work. The theoretical physics group is still based in the old cluster of buildings that was constructed for Niels Bohr. Unfortunately, the group will probably move to a new building closer to the main physics building soon, but I really liked the historic site. I actually got to defend my PhD in the lecture hall where all the big conferences of old time were held, which was a really special moment.

5. Have you visited CQG+ before and did you have a favourite article?

The first time I looked at CQG+ was when one of my own articles got mentioned.  Another favorite of mine is this one.  The full paper is too long for a casual read, so it is nice to have a shorter introduction to the idea.

6.  What does the recent LIGO announcement mean to you?

I’m very excited about the announcement, it is the beginning of a new era in our observation of the cosmos. Unfortunately the theories that I work on are still far from being tested in this or any other way, but hopefully we will breach this gap soon.

Clifford Will

Clifford Will is Editor-in-Chief of Classical and Quantum Gravity

Congratulations to Dr Glaser, winner of the 2016 Bergmann-Wheeler thesis prize, sponsored by Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The triennial Bergmann-Wheeler thesis prize is awarded by the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation (ISGRG) for the best thesis in quantum gravity.  The prize includes a cheque for $1800US and a certificate.  Dr Glaser’s thesis was selected for this award by a panel of judges for her advances in the causal dynamical triangulation and causal set approaches to quantum gravity, combining analytical and numerical insights.

The ISGRG will post instructions for nominating 2019 candidates in 2018.  Please see the ISGRG’s website for details.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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About Adam Day

Adam Day is the former publisher of Classical and Quantum Gravity. His background is mostly in publishing, where he thoroughly enjoyed working with the gravitational physics community. He now works as a Data Scientist for SAGE Publishing.