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Neil Lambert's career at King's started as a newborn in the College's Labour and Delivery Department, Denmark Hill. Following a lengthy study leave that took him to the University of Toronto, where he graduated with a BSc in Mathematics and Physics in 1992, he returned to the UK and pursued Graduate studies in Cambridge. Here, he completed a PhD in String Theory and Branes under the guidance of Professor Paul Townsend in 1996. His first post-doctoral position was back at King's in the Theoretical Physics Group. Since then he has had post-doctoral positions at the ENS in Paris and Rutgers University in the USA.

From 2000-2005 he held a PPARC Advanced Fellowship at King's, after which he was appointed to a Lectureship and then was elected to a Chair in 2009. From 2010-2013 he was a staff physicist at CERN.

Neil is currently an editor for Physics Letters B (PLB) and chairs the Fundamental Physics UK STFC-funded virtual centre.

Research interests

Neil's research is primarily concerned with supersymmetry, string theory and M-theory. A basic glossary of some of the terms used is available.

String theory and M theory:

String theory is generally (but certainly not universally) considered to be the most promising route to a fundamental quantum theory of Nature that is capable of describing all of the known physics that we observe in our universe. However, to date the fundamental principles that define string theory are not really known. Rather there exist five different perturbative descriptions, which are valid in ten dimensional spacetime; that is five sets of rules that tell us how to compute physical quantities order by order in some expansion parameter. It is now widely believed that there is a single underlying eleven dimensional theory, known as M-theory, that unifies these various perturbative descriptions and will, once it is better understood, provide a complete definition of what string theory is.

Supersymmetric and non-supersymmetric branes:

A major theme of his work has been the study of supersymmetric branes. These are extended objects that have radically changed our understanding of string theory and M-theory. In addition the study of branes provides a beautiful connection between geometry and quantum field theory. He has also studied non-supersymmetric and sometimes unstable branes. The lack of supersymmetry makes the study of these branes more difficult however their dynamics are very interesting. The unstable branes will decay quite violently and lose all their energy into so-called closed string modes such as the graviton but also its massive cousins found in string theory. In general there is a lack of understanding of such inherently time-dependent processes in string theory.

M2 branes:

Neil has made substantial contributions to the description of multiple M2-branes in M-theory. His work here led to dramatic change in our knowledge of M2-branes by constructing an interacting Lagrangian gauge field theory (known as BLG) with all the required symmetries. This work was even mentioned in Ian McEwan's book Solar. In particular we now have infinitely many new examples of highly supersymmetric three-dimensional conformal gauge theories (so-called Chern-Simons-matter theories and the ABJM/ABJ models in particular) which can be identified with the low energy descriptions of multiple M2-branes. These theories provide the first glimpses of microscopic states in M-theory that are not contained in the supergravity approximation.

M5 branes:

Neil is also very interested in multiple M5-branes (who isn’t?). This is a notoriously difficult problem as the associated field theories do not have a Lagrangian description in any traditional sense. (The same was thought to be the case for M2-branes but this time it really does seem to be true.) Nevertheless M5-branes do relate to more traditional gauge field theories in lower dimensions (and some highly non-traditional non-Lagrangian ones too). In recent years he has been exploring how novel new Lagrangian theories can be obtained in fewer dimensions. In particular he has found several supersymmetric but non-Lorentzian field theories with novel spacetime symmetries. This also holds the hope that there is a path integral formulation of M5-branes, based on a Lagrangian, but one where the six-dimensional Lorentz symmetry arises at strong coupling in the quantum theory. Nevertheless, that aside, this seems to be an interesting and fun playground in which to explore the microscopic degrees of freedom of M-theory.

Further information