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Ross Dempsey

Department: Physics
Faculty Adviser: Silviu Pufu
Year of Study:
Undergraduate School: Johns Hopkins
Undergraduate Major: Physics and Math

Personal Bio

I grew up in Northern Virginia, and I've more or less always been interested in physics, math, and computer science.

As an undergraduate, I started out doing research in astrophysics, and worked on modeling "outflow regions." These are explosions that last thousands of years (in the case of Orion, a nearby nursery for baby stars) or tens of millions of years (in the case of quasars, the crucibles at the centers of distant and ancient galaxies).

I then shifted to high-energy theory, where we try to understand on a very basic level how the theories of physics work, and how they might be extended and/or unified. In the process, we cover a lot of interesting ground, from the structure of black holes all the way down to the phenomena of quarks, elementary particles that remain in many ways mysterious. I've continued working in this area at Princeton, which is a great place to do physics.

Fun Fact

I once made a giant Oreo. The recipe:

1) 3D print a photo scan of an Oreo cookie, magnified to 6-inch diameter

2) Using a food-safe material, cast a mold of the 3D-printed cookie

3) Crush up the cookies, and, separately, the cream, of an entire family-size box of Double-Stuf Oreos

4) Further pulverize the cookies into a fine dust, so they can be poured through a strainer

5) Add a bit of water to the cookie dust, until it has the consistency of a dough

6) Fill the mold with half the cookie mixture, and bake at 250 F (to avoid melting the mold) for ~45 minutes

7) Repeat for the other half of the cookie mixture

8) Assemble the two sides with the cream in between

9) Photograph and enjoy, and/or question your life choices

Research Pitch

When you were a kid, someone probably showed you how a balloon would stick to your hair if you rub your feet against the carpet, or something like that. Now imagine it was completely unknown why that happens, and theorists were scratching their heads trying to figure out why electrons and protons are attracted to each other.

Thankfully that's not the case; we understand very well why electrons and protons attract. But inside the proton itself is a similar story: elementary particles called quarks are held together to form the proton, and they're bound so strongly that they can never be pulled apart. At a fundamental level, no one truly knows why.

A lot of my research focuses on this question: what keeps the quarks together? To study this question, we look at simulations of simplified theories of quarks, to see how they behave and whether they can be pulled apart. In practice, this involves a lot of coding, but the end results need to be understood with careful theoretical calculations.

Plans for Summer 2022

Not available to participate in Summer ReMatch+ program.

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