1)  Who are you? Can you tell us something about yourself?

I am Michel Guidal, "Directeur de Recherche" at the French "Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique" (CNRS) and my office is located at the "Institut de Physique Nucleaire d'Orsay" (IPNO). CNRS is composed of 32000 employees, among which ~11000 researchers (the remaining being engineers, technician or administration), which carry out research in all fields of knowledge. My laboratory, IPNO, comprises ~350 employees, among which more than 100 researchers who carry out research in various fields of subatomic physics. I personnally did my undergraduate University studies in France, then went to the US and was awarded a Masters of Science at the University of South Carolina (USA) in 1994. I obtained my PhD in Nuclear Physics in 1996 from the University of Orsay (France) and, after a postdoc position at NIKHEF (The Netherlands), I obtained a permanent position in CNRS in 1997.

2)  You are leading an activity within the HP3 project? Which are the scientifically exciting aspects of your research project?

I study the structure of the proton, the nucleus of the most abundant atom in the Universe, i.e. the hydrogen (one electron "orbiting" around one proton). We know since the end of the sixties that the proton is not an elementary "pointlike" particle but that it has a substructure and contains other particles, called the "partons", which are "quarks" and "anti-quarks" (the anti-particles of quarks) bound by "gluons". The proton actually appears as a "soup" of quarks, anti-quarks and gluons, all constantly appearing and disappearing from the "vacuum", interacting with each other but, at the same time, all remaing confined in a tiny volume of the order of 10^-15 meters, which we call the proton. I am therefore trying to understand how the proton acquire all its general "static" properties (electric charge, mass, spin, ...) from this fascinating quark-gluon mixture which is in permanent motion and interaction.

3)  Who are the participants to your project?

We have 14 groups from 24 institutes in 7 European countries: France, UK, Italy, Germany, Poland, Spain and Croatia.

4)  What do you want to achieve with this activity?

We cannot study all aspects of the complex structure of the proton within the limited timeframe of this activity. We have therefore decided to focus in one particular direction: the "tomography" of the proton which can be accessed through the concept of the Generalized Parton Distributions (GPDs). A tomography is meant to provide 2-dimensional images of an object by "slices" or by "sections", thus ultimately yielding a 3-dimensionnal view of the object. In the case of our project, we aim at mapping, in a frame where the proton goes to the speed of light along a certain direction, its charge and spin distributions in a "transverse" plane as a function of the longitudinal momentum of its constituents, i.e. the partons. For this, we need to carry out a series of specific experiments, smashing high energy particles (electrons or muons) on proton or neutron targets and produce a few specific particles in the final state. By analyzing the energy and angular distributions of the products of these reactions, with the help of theoretician colleagues, we expect to be able to provide in a near future many hints on the 3-dimensionnal view of the proton.

5)  In which way your activity could be of benefit for the society?

We are studying the smallest constituents of matter known to this day in the Universe, i.e. quarks and gluons. This means that we are at the very frontier of knowledge and science and we are continuously pushing those limits. Besides this noble role of constantly improving and increasing for mankind the academic knowledge of the world we live in, we have a concrete education role by forming and educating young scientists with the most recent and modern technologies and theories. Even if they don't pursue their career in our academic research field, they will be able to "export" all the expertise and techniques at the forefront of knowledge that they will have acquired with us to other fields such as nuclear medicine, finance, etc... In terms of technology, all the knowledge and expertise accumulated in building the high energy and high intensity particle accelerators or high resolution particle detectors that we use daily for our experiments benefit society where (lower energy) particle accelerators or (smaller scale) particle detectors can now commonly be found in various fields of the society: medicine, security, art,...

6)  Why do you think a young person should choose to study science and is there any reason for which should they do so in Europe?

Science is a formidable way to make society and mankind progress. Although sometimes it can have harmful effects, most of the time, it brings beneficial effects to society and humans (for instance, if humans live longer than ever nowadays, it is mainly due to the huge progresses in science).
It is important that there is not a unique way of seeing and studying things. There should be different schools of thoughts. It is by competition, discussion, contradiction (and overall by collaboration and exchange) that one progresses and ultimately finds the "truth" (or "a" thuth...). It is important that Europe remains competitive and can bring its own contribution to scientific advances, on a same footing as North America and Asia.  

 


The HadronPhysics3 project is supported by the European Union
under the 7th Framework Capacities Programme in the area of Research Infrastructures (RI).