Feature Story | 12-Oct-2021

Jozef Dudek: Then and now / 2011 Early Career Award winner

Jozef Dudek has pioneered theoretical techniques to study the subatomic particles -- hadrons -- which can decay into short-lived states

DOE/US Department of Energy


My research focuses on understanding how quarks and gluons, the fundamental particles of the strong interaction, combine to form observed, subatomic particles known as hadrons. My particular interest is in those unstable, excited hadrons which decay or break down rapidly into lighter particles.

Scientists can approach the relevant theory, quantum chromodynamics, using a numerical approach known as lattice QCD. With this approach, supercomputing power handles the complex dynamics of the quarks and gluons. The job of the physicist is to find the right quantities to compute so that interesting properties of hadrons can be inferred and ultimately compared with experimental data.

The Early Career Research Program award allowed me to focus on moving into a previously unexplored area of lattice QCD: the study of excited hadrons capable of decaying into more than one final state. My collaborators and I were able to pioneer theoretical techniques that led to several world-first calculations which shed light on long-standing questions in hadron physics.

The award supported talented postdoctoral researchers who I mentored and worked closely with. In this way, the Early Career award was the springboard for two further careers: one former postdoc now holds a prestigious Royal Society fellowship at Cambridge, while another is an assistant professor with his own Early Career award.


Jozef Dudek is the Sallie Gertrude Smoot Spears Associate Professor of Physics at the College of William & Mary and a Staff Scientist in the Theory Center at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.


The Early Career Research Program provides financial support that is foundational to early career investigators, enabling them to define and direct independent research in areas important to DOE missions. The development of outstanding scientists and research leaders is of paramount importance to the Department of Energy Office of Science. By investing in the next generation of researchers, the Office of Science champions lifelong careers in discovery science.

For more information, please go to the Early Career Research Program.


Meson Spectroscopy from Quantum Chromodynamics

The basic building blocks of the atomic nucleus, protons, and neutrons, are constructed from quarks, bound together by gluons in such a way that they are never seen in isolation. Quarks and their anti‐particles can also pair up in short‐lived states called mesons; the goal of this project is to predict the theoretical properties of these mesons. Although we know the fundamental theory of quark and gluon dynamics to be solved, “Quantum Chromodynamics” (QCD), exact mathematical solution of the theory eludes us. Our best available tool for studying QCD is “Lattice QCD” (LQCD), a numerical solution of the theory with controllable approximations.


This research project will use novel LQCD techniques to predict the masses and quantum numbers of mesons, their internal quark‐gluon structure, their decays into other mesons, and their couplings to photons. A major emphasis will be the predicted properties of “hybrid mesons,” hypothetical exotic particles in which the usual quark‐antiquark pair is accompanied by an excitation of the gluon field that binds them.

This project will complement a planned search for hybrid mesons by the Gluonic Excitation Experiment (GlueX) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.


J.J. Dudek, R.G. Edwards, P. Guo, C.E. Thomas for Hadron Spectrum Collaboration, “Toward the excited isoscalar meson spectrum from lattice QCD.” Phys.Rev.D 88, 094505 (2013). [DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.88.094505]

M.R. Shepherd, J.J. Dudek, and R.E. Mitchell, “Searching for the rules that govern hadron construction.” Nature 534, 487 (2016). [DOI: 10.1038/nature18011]

R.A. Briceño, J.J. Dudek, R.G. Edwards, D.J. Wilson for the Hadron Spectrum Collaboration, “Isoscalar ππ scattering and the σ meson resonance from QCD.” Phys.Rev.Lett. 118, 022002 (2017). [DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.022002]

DOE EXPLAINS… offers straightforward explanations of key words and concepts in fundamental science. It also describes how these concepts apply to the work that the Department of Energy’s Office of Science conducts as it helps the United States excel in research across the scientific spectrum. For more information on quarks and gluons, and DOE’s research in this area, please go to “DOE EXPLAINS... Quark-Gluon Plasma.”

Additional profiles of the Early Career Research Program award recipients can be found at /science/listings/early-career-program

The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit www.energy.gov/science.

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