“It is the theory that decides what can be observed!”, said Albert Einstein. Science without theory is unthinkable: theoreticians provide our fundamental understanding of how nature operates, and can also turn this knowledge into practical applications. In the Theoretical Sciences Unit at JNCASR, we aim to address, explain and understand the rich diversity we observe in the physical world. We also use this understanding in order to predict new phenomena or design new materials. For this, we use the techniques ot theoretical physics and chemistry, as well as mathematics. We are also interested in interdisciplinary areas (such as evolutionary biology) in which techniques and ideas from physics can be used to gain fresh insight.
The research in our Unit is inspired by two complementary approaches to the study of matter and life: the search for universality and the exploration and explanation of diversity.In the very early universe, matter was homogeneous, but this is clearly no longer so. Due to spontaneously broken symmetries and sequences of phase transtions, the world around us now exhibits variety and complexity: carbon is ultrahard as diamond but soft as graphite, ice contracts when it melts, wheareas copper expands, chewing gum stretches when stepped on while glass shatters, most of life is multicellular and sexually reproducing though these are "expensive" traits..why?? In order to understand this perplexing yet fascinating range of behaviour, we have to examine structures and properties at a fundamental level, and consider the complex consequences of having a large number of entities (be they electrons, atoms, molecules or living creatures) that interact strongly with one another. Even when the underlying natural laws are simple in form, complex behaviour can be manifested as system sizes increase; this is known as "emergence", and is of fundamental interest to us.
Our faculty members have had their basic training in many body physics, computational chemistry, quantum mechanical density functional theory, statistical mechanics and mathematical physics. However, much of the work we currently pursue is interdisciplinary in nature, so that we turn the boundaries between these fields into seamless ones. Accordingly, we also accept students who have undergraduate or graduate degrees in a variety of academic disciplines, such as chemistry, physics, engineering and computer science.
In addition to collaborating amongst ourselves on various problems, all of us also interact intensively with our experimental colleagues, both in JNCASR and outside. We also use a mixture of analytical and computational techniques; in the latter, we are helped by the presence of high-performance computational facilities at JNCASR.
The atmosphere in our Unit is vibrant, informal and interactive. Our faculty and students participate in a number of national and international conferences and workshops, we organize several seminars and colloquia ourselves, and have a constant stream of distinguished visitors. Alumni of our Unit have excelled in their careers; several of them are now establishing their own groups at universities in India and abroad. We are always on the lookout for bright students who are curious about science and dedicated to research; we urge you to contact us if you are one of them!