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Picture of Dr Silvia Nagy

Get to know Dr Silvia Nagy from our Department of Mathematical Sciences.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your research interests?

I completed my PhD at Imperial college, with postdocs in Lisbon, Nottingham and London. My main research interest is to figure out how gravity fits in with other forces like electricity and magnetism, and the strong and weak forces that hold atoms together. More specifically, I am involved in a new way of looking at gravity, which stems from the `double copy’ idea. It suggests that gravity can be explained using combinations of simpler building blocks.  These building blocks are called gauge theories, and they describe in an elegant way these other forces, such as electromagnetism and the strong and weak forces. So, the double copy idea tells us that gravity may not be so different from these forces after all. They all might come from the same basic ingredients, just mixed together in different ways. This is a big idea in the world of physics because it could help us understand the fundamental forces of the universe in a simpler and more unified way.

When did you join us and what is your role at Durham University?

I am an Assistant Professor, and I joined in September 2022.

What are the projects/research you are currently working on?

Currently I am working on extending the double copy such that it becomes applicable to cosmology. I am also interested in asymptotic phenomena, the study of how physical information can be encoded in a simple and elegant way at the boundary of spacetime. Finally, I am also trying to understand how realistic cosmological models can arise from high-energy theories such as string theory. 

What is interesting about your projects/research?

What excites me the most about my work are the unexpected connections between seemingly very different areas of physics, and I enjoy the challenge of formulating these connections in a mathematically precise way.

What is the scientific and societal relevance of your research?

The impact of theoretical physics research, including the double copy, can be hard to predict with certainty. Because the double copy is a complex topic of study, researchers from around the world tend to work together to make progress, and this further strengthens international scientific collaborations and partnerships.

It can also inspire educational programmes, public lectures, and science outreach initiatives, and lead to increased interest and engagement in science, particularly in the field of theoretical physics. I have participated in some of these, aimed both at the general public and school-aged children, and was very happy to be able to generate interest and excitement about my work.

While the immediate practical applications might not be obvious, fundamental research often leads to unforeseen technological breakthroughs. Understanding the fundamental forces of the universe could, in the long run, lead to technologies that we can't even imagine yet.

What are your plans for future research/study?

In the future I plan to delve into the study of integrable systems, which are fascinating structures characterised by infinite amounts of symmetry - these can serve as simple theoretical laboratories for answering questions in mathematical physics. I am also keen to see how machine learning can be applied to my work.

Any interesting hobbies/passion outside of work?

In my spare time I enjoy climbing and drawing, though in recent weeks my entire free time has been taken by Oscar, my 4.5 month old retriever puppy.