Xin-Nian Wang, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Nuclear Theory Program, part of the Nuclear Science Division, has received a prestigious 2024 Humboldt Research Award.

Wang’s main research interests lie in theoretical high-energy nuclear physics to explore a new state of matter in ultra-relativistic heavy-ion collisions at the Relativistic Heavy-ion Collider (RHIC) at the Brookhaven National Lab and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Quark-gluon plasma (QGP) is a state of matter that is believed to have existed in the early universe only a few microseconds after the Big Bang and is thought to currently exist at the core of some of our Universe’s compact stellar objects such as neutron stars. With fellow Berkeley Lab physicist Miklos Gyulassy, he pioneered the study of QGP properties using energetic particles referred to as “jets,” which are produced together with QGP in high-energy heavy-ion collisions. His recent work focuses on developing a technique called jet tomography, which uses jets and the supersonic sound waves they generate to shed light on the thermodynamic and transport properties of QGP. Together with their collaborators, Wang’s team also predicted the spin polarization of particles due to the vortical flow in QGP in noncentral heavy-ion collisions. This phenomenon was observed by the STAR Collaboration, revealing that the QGP in noncentral heavy-ion collisions is the most vortical fluid in nature. Wang is also interested in using jets to study the properties of cold nuclei at high energy in the future Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), to be built at the Brookhaven National Lab.

Wang plans to use this opportunity to continue collaborative research on the properties of QGP with physicists at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main and other institutes in Germany. The Humboldt Foundation annually sponsors around 100 scientists and scholars from all academic disciplines and nationalities through research awards and the promotion of international understanding, scientific progress and development.