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thomas papenbrock
Thomas Papenbrock
Joint Faculty Professor

Theoretical Nuclear Physics
Office: 106 South College/ORNL
Phone: 865-974-3128 or 865-574-4577
Personal Website

Brief Vita
  • PhD, Physics, University of Heidelberg (1996)
  • Diploma in Physics, University of Heidelberg (1994)

  • Professor (Joint faculty with ORNL), Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (since 2013)
  • Associate Professor (Joint faculty with ORNL), Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2009-2013)
  • Assistant Professor (Joint faculty with ORNL) Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2004-2009)
  • Research Staff, Physics Division, ORNL (2003-2004)
  • Wigner Fellow and Research Staff, Physics Division Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) (2000-2002)
  • Research Associate, Institute for Nuclear Theory, University of Washington, Seattle (1997-2000)
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik, Heidelberg, Germany (1997)

Selected Honors
  • Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (2014)
  • Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, Alexander von Humboldt {Stiftung} (2010-2011)
  • Teacher of the Year, Society of Physics Students (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, chapter) (2009)
  • Outstanding Junior Investigator, Office of Nuclear Physics, U.S. Department of Energy (2007)

Research Areas

I am interested in nuclear theory, use effective field theories to describe and compute nuclei, and − most recently − started to explore quantum computing for atomic nuclei.

In nuclear theory a path toward model-independent calculations of atomic nuclei has become possible in recent years. Effective field theory (EFT) provides us with a systematic (and largely model-independent) approach to nuclear interactions based on symmetry principles alone. Our group helps to constrain nucleon-nucleon and three-nucleon forces from EFT and works on EFTs for heavy nuclei.

Powerful numerical methods and the ever-increasing availability of computational cycles make it possible to solve Hamiltonians from EFT without any uncontrolled approximations, and with an increasing understanding of theoretical uncertainties. This enables theorists to make predictions for rare and exotic nuclei, characterized by an unusual ratio of proton and neutron numbers. Our group made several predictions for key observables in rare isotopes of oxygen, calcium, nickel, and tin.

Recently, quantum computers solved first real-world problems in quantum chemistry. While these problems can be solved with very modest resources on a classical computer, it is exciting to see that they also can be solved on a quantum device. We presented the first computation of an atomic nucleus − the deuteron − on quantum chips. We also wrote an article for IOP Physics World about cloud quantum computing.

Selected Recent Publications

Professor Papenbrock's publications are available via Google Scholar, arXiv, and ORCID.



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