Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz to welcome Gilad Perez, winner of a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award

Eminent scientist from the Weizmann Institute to conduct research into dark matter and fundamental new physics as a guest member of Dmitry Budker's group

28 May 2020

Prof. Gilad Perez, a theoretical physicist from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, is coming to Mainz with the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He will continue his research alongside his academic host, Prof. Dmitry Budker from the PRISMA+ Cluster of Excellence at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM). The collaboration between these two scientists is dedicated to one of the most fascinating challenges facing fundamental physics in the 21st century: the search for dark matter.

It has long been known that dark matter must exist as supported by a host of astrophysical and cosmological observations. Moreover, visible matter only accounts for around 20 percent of the total matter in the universe – meaning that more than 80 percent can only be dark matter. Nevertheless, we still do not know what makes up dark matter.

Gilad Perez has been tackling major questions in the fields of elementary particle physics, cosmology, and ‘new physics' beyond the Standard Model for many years. He is working on resolving mysteries associated with the recently discovered Higgs boson. Furthermore, at present the primary focus of his work is on the topic of dark matter, with a particular emphasis on the concept known as the 'relaxion field'. Perez refined the original theory, overcoming some obstacles in the process, and his model now has an array of additional features. He is investigating the possibility that the dark matter density near astrophysical objects, such as the sun and the earth, can be greater than expected by conventional models, and, consequently, coupling effects with normal matter should thus be easier to observe and record in a laboratory using various types of detectors.

Gilad Perez has now been granted the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in tribute to his research to date. The award is endowed with EUR 45,000 and includes an invitation to undertake a research stay in Germany. As soon as the coronavirus situation makes this possible, Gilad Perez will be joining the Experimental Atomic Physics team headed up by Prof. Dmitry Budker.

"We have already enjoyed working very successfully with Gilad Perez in the past," states Budker. "He is also one of the leading minds in the fields of theoretical particle phenomenology and physics beyond the Standard Model. Although he is still a young researcher, he has already published many outstanding articles and is a sought-after speaker at international conferences. That's why I nominated Gilad for the research award and I'm delighted that he won it. We have already co-authored several articles dealing with the relaxion model that spotlight the search for ultra-light dark matter in the laboratory." This will also be the overriding focus of Gilad Perez’ research stay - working towards finally identifying what dark matter is and finding ingenious ways to detect it in the laboratory. They also plan to continue with the experiment on which they have already reported. Dmitry Budker is convinced that the collaboration will be highly rewarding: "Our joint work will benefit tremendously from the research award and the research stay. I’m certain that the exchange will give rise to lots of new and exciting ideas."

The Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation honors internationally renowned scientists based outside Germany. The Humboldt Foundation grants some 20 Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Awards annually.