On March 17, the Simons Foundation’s Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS) division held a kickoff meeting for the Simons Collaboration on the Many Electron Problem. The gathering brought together 23 physicists from around the world, all focused on developing, implementing and applying new methods for determining the quantum mechanical behavior of systems that comprise many interacting electrons.
“It was very exciting,” says Steven White, director of the tensor networks group of the collaboration. “There were a lot of key people in the field — experts in different areas of the same problem.”
The goal of the first meeting was to define the major and long-term goals of the collaboration as well as some short-term projects. The meeting featured nine talks throughout the day, each followed by a question and answer session. These sessions enabled the collaboration members to define the long-term goals more clearly and to agree on the near-term projects that will get the collaboration started. Collaboration director Andy Millis encouraged attendees to “think big and be brave” in conceiving goals and projects.
Attendees said that the discussion of the varied approaches to the basic questions was particularly stimulating. “This program brings together people with different backgrounds and techniques who speak a common language,” says Antoine Georges, professor at the College de France and director of the cluster embeddings group within the collaboration. “Once we settle on the same targets, we can hope for good things.”
Members of the collaboration are also enthusiastic about the program’s summer school, which will train graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in theoretical and computational techniques. “Being proficient in this topic requires a lot of training,” says collaboration member Emanuel Gull. “The students and postdocs need to be up to speed. And they need to know more than one perspective. So with the summer school and this first collaboration meeting, we’re in really good shape.”
“This is just a start, but there’s so much discussion — people bring what they know and share it,” Gull says. “I think we can expect some significant things,” says Georges.