Revealing the Details of Subatomic Particle Interactions

  • Headshot of Raul Briceno

Raul Briceño will engage the incredible computational power of supercomputers to unravel the secrets of subatomic particles and how they interact.

Supercomputers have the power to unlock the secrets of subatomic particles that are hidden deep inside everyday matter. But they can’t do it on their own: They require experts to use their knowledge of the theory subatomic to set up the problems to be calculated and provide insight into the results.

Raul Briceño, a Jefferson Lab jointly appointed assistant professor at Old Dominion University, has been awarded a DOE Early Career Award to do just that, as he develops and implements a first-of-its-kind universal framework for these studies.

“It is quite exciting to receive this award. This will give a big push forward to my research as I settle into faculty life at Old Dominion University,” he said. Briceño was a postdoctoral fellow and then the Nathan Isgur Research Fellow at Jefferson Lab until his recent joint appointment with ODU.

He plans to use supercomputers to study systems of particles built of more than one hadron. Hadrons are subatomic particles that are built from quarks bound together by the strong force. Hadrons include the protons and neutrons found in the nucleus of the atom, for instance.

These studies will take place through Quantum Chromodynamics. QCD is the theory of the strong interaction – the force that governs how subatomic particles are made. It describes the fundamental laws governing how the strong force binds quarks together to make hadrons.

“I hope to understand how quarks and gluons arrange themselves in bound states and resonances of QCD. For example, is there an enhancement of glue in a hybrid resonance? Or, do quarks and gluons like to gather close together in some states, while in others, they prefer to spread themselves out as far as possible?” Briceño said.

He will also develop a theoretical and computational framework that will allow him and his colleagues to study the physics of how systems of hadrons should interact according to QCD. One goal he hopes to reach is a better understanding of how the strong force contributes to binding protons and neutrons into nuclei, especially in the complicated case of when there are three or more protons and neutrons bound together.

“Among many things, this will allow us to determine the force that may be responsible for approximately 30 percent of the binding energy of nuclei,” he explained. “Also, this will allow us to study highly excited resonances that are expected to be observed here with the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility at Jefferson Lab.” 

The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility is a DOE Office of Science user facility.

As a university-based researcher, Briceño will receive a grant for at least $150,000 per year for the next five years for his project, titled “Multi-hadron systems via Lattice QCD.” Funds are used to cover salary and research expenses.

Contact: Kandice Carter, Jefferson Lab Communications Office, 757-269-7263,


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