Theory (TH) fellow Azadeh Maleknejad has won the 2021 Buchalter Cosmology Prize (second prize) for her work on axions, entitled “SU(2)R and its Axion in Cosmology: A Common Origin for Inflation, Cold Sterile Neutrinos, and Baryogenesis”. The annual prize was created in 2014 by physicist-turned-entrepreneur Dr Ari Buchalter to reward new ideas with the potential of producing breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe.
Azadeh’s work, which was published in the Physical Review D journal, was acclaimed by the prize’s jury, composed of world-renowned cosmologists, as “a compelling new perspective on some of the most important questions in cosmology”.
The study introduces a model where the seeds for large-scale structure, dark matter and baryon asymmetry all share a common origin produced by quantum effects during an inflationary era. It focuses on axions, theoretical particles that could account for both dark matter’s tremendous mass and matter–antimatter asymmetry in the strong sector. Discovering the elusive particle has been an objective of several experiments at CERN and around the world.
In Azadeh’s words, “the early universe, before Big Bang nucleogenesis, is still mostly uncharted territory, and it requires physics beyond the Standard Model to answer its long-standing puzzles: the origin of the observed matter asymmetry, the nature of dark matter, massive neutrinos and cosmic inflation. In the new scenario that I proposed, the axion inflation is embedded in the left-right symmetric model. This scenario can possibly solve and assign a common origin to these seemingly unrelated mysteries of modern particle physics and cosmology. I feel honoured that the prize’s jury found this thesis compelling.”
“I am very proud to have Azadeh in our group at CERN-TH and delighted for the much-deserved prize she has received, which is also a recognition of the active role that CERN-TH is playing in cosmology”, adds Gian Giudice, Head of the Theoretical Physics department at CERN.
The 2021 first prize was awarded to Dr Karsten Jedamzik of the Université de Montpellier and Dr Levon Pogosian of Simon Fraser University and the University of Portsmouth for their work on the Hubble tension.