Prof. Krzysztof Pachucki – FNP Prize laureate 2018
Prof. Krzysztof Pachucki from the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw has won the 2018 Foundation for Polish Science Prize in the field of mathematical, physical and engineering sciences for precise quantum electrodynamic calculation of spectroscopic parameters of lightweight atoms and molecules.
The 2018 Foundation for Polish Science Prize is awarded in recognition of the precise calculations of the properties of atoms and molecules conducted by Prof. Krzysztof Pachucki, enabling the testing of fundamental interactions by critical comparison with measurements. These findings have immediate application in practice, as they are the basis for precise determination of fundamental physical constants.
A physical constant is a quantity of unchanging value occurring in physics equations, constituting the basis for a quantitative description of physical phenomena. Universal physical constants are of fundamental importance for all of physics, and their value determines the behaviour of bodies in many different fields—optics, mechanics, thermodynamics. In cooperation with experimental physics, including Nobel laureate Prof. Theodor Hänsch, Pachucki achieved the most precise determination of the fundamental constants of nature. He also solved many complicated theoretical problems connected with determining the spectra of various ions and molecules, such as positronium, muonium, muonic hydrogen, the helium atom, and particles of hydrogen. Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, one of the founders of the standard model of physics, included Pachucki’s findings in his textbook on quantum field theory.
While still a doctoral student, Krzysztof Pachucki developed a new method for calculating the effects of higher-order quantum electrodynamics through an innovative division of scales of energy. These calculations contributed to the creation of the now very popular subfield of research known as non-relativistic quantum electrodynamics. He made a breakthrough in the theory of the Lamb shift, i.e. a slight difference in the lowest energy level of an excited hydrogen atom, of fundamental importance for the development of quantum electrodynamics.
The work of this year’s FNP Prize laureate has inspired a large group of researchers around the world to take up calculations, provided a stimulus for experimental physicists to conduct precise measurements of the spectra of atomic arrangements, and ensured interpretation of the measurements. This is how the most precise tests of quantum electrodynamics were developed. Moreover, Prof. Pachucki’s calculations facilitated the determination of the charge radius of light atomic nuclei, including the radius of the proton, which is currently one of the most critical tests for the universality of fundamental interactions.
Prof. Krzysztof Pachucki’s theory may lead in the future to rejection or confirmation of the “fifth force” in physics. For years scientists have been seeking the fifth force of nature—another fundamental interaction alongside gravitational force, electromagnetic force, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force.
Prof. Krzysztof Pachucki (born 1963), is a theoretical physicist. He is an expert in the field of atomic theory and molecular spectroscopy. He is a physics graduate of the University of Warsaw. After defending his doctoral thesis at the Institute of Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, for which he received the PAS Division III prize, he left for a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. He then returned to his alma mater, where his postdoctoral thesis won the Prime Minister’s Award. He was named a professor in 1999.
To this day he conducts research and lectures at the University of Warsaw. In 2005 he was recognized with membership of the American Physical Society. He also serves as co-chair of the CODATA Task Group on Fundamental Physical Constants. He has won numerous prestigious grants, including a NIST Precision Measurement Grant, and in 2011 was given the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Award of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Prof. Krzysztof Pachucki’s achievements have been recognized by the international scientific community. He has published numerous groundbreaking theoretical works as the sole author, and in co-authored publications he has served as the lead theoretician. His 180 scientific articles have been cited a total of over 5,700 times, and his works are cited about 500 times every year.