Science Student Spotlight: Antonina Maj
Maj is a third-year Physics Ph.D. student specializing in high energy theory. Her current work is in non-perturbative aspects of gauge theories in (3+1)-dimensions.
Antonina Maj is a third-year Physics Ph.D. student at the CUNY Graduate Center specializing in high energy theory. Her research advisers are Distinguished Professor Parameswaran Nair (GC/CCNY, Physics) Professor Dimitra Karabali at Lehman College with whom she’s worked on projects involving the Casimir Effect in (2+1) Yang Mills theory and a complex parametrization of gauge theories in (3+1)-dimensions. In 2021, she received a CCNY Bernard B. Levine Graduate Fellowship in Science and Mathematics and was awarded a Graduate Center Doctoral Student Research Grant in 2022.
Her current work is in non-perturbative aspects of gauge theories in (3+1)-dimensions. To give this area a bit of a motivation, quantum chromodynamics (QCD) — the physics governing quarks and gluons — is a notoriously difficult theory to work with at the low-energy scale. This difficulty arises due to the breakdown of perturbation theory at this level, thus giving rise to the importance of non-perturbative methods. By treating the four gauge fields of a (3+1)-dimensional theory as two complex fields, one can globally (hence non-perturbatively) factor out the redundant, gauge degrees of freedom by considering a gauge-invariant subspace of the fields. With this method Antonina and her advisers were able to corroborate some available evidence in low-energy QCD, available mostly from lattice simulations, such as the existence of a mass gap for gluons and the instanton-dominated regime of QCD.
The CCNY high energy theory group is a lively community of CUNY students and professors specializing in areas from condensed matter physics to string theory. Every week they hold a high energy theory seminar where one can hear talks on cutting-edge theoretical research from around the world. Being part of this group has been a valuable experience for Antonina, as in a field that can be solitary such as mathematical physics, having the chance to discuss with other theorists on a weekly basis is a rare and important opportunity.
Outside of research, Antonina has been teaching introductory physics labs to undergraduates at CCNY. Teaching at CCNY has proven to be both rewarding and interesting in its own right, as one can develop one’s own teaching technique through trial and error in a classroom environment.