QCD Matter Studies with Heavy Quarks and Dileptons
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Part of the Standard Model of particle physics, Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) is the fundamental theory of the strong interactions between quarks and gluons. The phase structure of QCD is explored via ongoing experiments at the Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider and the Large Hadron Collider. In these experiments, the strongly-interacting matter at high temperatures and densities that prevailed in the first microseconds of the Universe can be recreated for a short moment in the laboratory by colliding heavy atomic nuclei at high energies. This project will advance the theoretical understanding of the Quark-Gluon Plasma by studying the electromagnetic radiation and the heavy flavor hadrons used as penetrating probes in ultra-relativistic heavy-ion reactions. The results will be used to improve our understanding of the relationship between the fundamental properties of the strong interactions and the generation of the visible mass in the Universe and the confinement of quarks and gluons into nucleons, the building blocks of atomic nuclei.The fundamental research conducted by graduate students and post-doctoral associates is integrated with education and outreach activities involving undergraduate and high-school students, including the continued and improved operation of the Saturday Morning Physics program at Texas A&M University that benefits high schools and the general public in Southeast-Central Texas.