Alex Schimmoller, a senior majoring in physics, is applying his passion for physics and his interest in research to help reconcile competing theories that could change the way physicists understand the universe. Alex is writing an honors thesis with Professor Denys Bondar in the Physics Department, building on a research project they started in the Fall of 2018. Through this project, they aim to develop a theory of quantum entropic gravity.
Alex and Dr. Bondar are working to reconcile conflicting theories in the field of physics. Alex says “the problem right now is that gravity is very much at odds with quantum mechanics. If the laws of physics are to be universal, then these two ideas should be reconcilable, but at this point, they’re not.” Alex and Dr. Bondar hope that their research will contribute to finding a theory that would solve the quantum gravity problem, something Alex says would be “really rewarding.”
This summer, with the support of the Honors Summer Research grant, Alex worked on developing the mathematics necessary to make the theory testable. He and Dr. Bondar now plan on working with an experimentalist so that they can test the tenability of the theory. Alex enjoyed working with Dr. Bondar this summer because it allowed him to “break a lot of the barriers that are imposed in a standard class setting” by developing his own theory and collaborating with a faculty member, instead of just taking notes and memorizing information. Even though this research could be intimidating, Dr. Bondar helped Alex check his work and move closer to a testable theory.
Participating in the Honors Summer Research Program also gave Alex the opportunity to talk to other student researchers working on projects in a variety of fields. He says, “it was really interesting to hear the range of the projects that people were working on,” especially projects related to topics with which he was unfamiliar, such as those in the liberal arts. He also enjoyed the challenge of taking the complicated premise of his project and making it “comprehensible” so that other students could engage with it.
As Alex pursues his research further and develops it into an Honors Thesis, he continues to challenge himself as a student and researcher. He says this project has “required a lot of growth on [his] part, in terms of [his] understanding of physics,” but he enjoys working toward finding an answer to a big question in his field. “Solving the quantum gravity problem and having a complete theory that puts these two ideas together would be the greatest accomplishment of theoretical physics in our lifetimes, but to have some little piece of something that [he] can help tack on is really rewarding.” Alex is excited to present the findings of his research in April at the Honors Thesis Forum and share this exciting area of research with his peers in his and other disciplines.