Aysha Abdel-Aziz is a Canadian PhD student at Perimeter Institute. She is studying the role of entanglement entropy in gauge/gravity duality under the supervision of Robert Myers.
PI: Breakthroughs often happen at the broken places, or where things are at a standstill. What's the most exciting broken place for you?
AA: To me, it's interesting that particle physics is hoping for a problem. We spent the last several decades showing that the Standard Model is accurate as far as we can tell. Most recently we looked for the Higgs, and we found the Higgs. We know the Standard Model is not complete, but because we've confirmed it so well, we don't know where it's broken. So the question now is, what do we look for? As the LHC gears back up, I think everyone is hoping to see something that we don’t expect. Because if we see something that we don't expect, that would be a problem, and that would be fun.
PI: What keeps you up at night, or gets you to work in the morning?
AA: This year, I've spent most of my nights learning and thinking about how smooth spacetime emerges from entanglement in AdS/CFT and, in particular, how ideas from quantum information can help. If you think of smooth areas as made up of small, disconnected patches it seems that, in a sense, information is the string that sews them together and entanglement roughly describes how tight the stitches are. The problem is we don't exactly know what the needle is or where it pokes its holes in the patches. Sleep is this terrible thing I have to do. I wish I could do this round the clock.
PI: Have you ever had a eureka moment?
AA: I think that's what it's like to learn, really. A lot of things aren’t clear right away, and then suddenly you realize, "oh, this what they're talking about." I really like making notes: I learn something, and study, and read books, but it's only when I sit down to write my own version of it that I find I really understand it. I hope research will be like that someday.
PI: "I am a physicist because..."
AA: ... it's a little bit more interesting to me than everything else. I love history and poetry and philosophy, but there is something extra in physics. I think it is this belief that it's real, that I can get a right answer. And because it's real, I can get things I don't expect. I can be surprised.
"If we see something that we don't expect, that would be a problem, and that would be fun."