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Research News

Peter Tandy's Research Program Receives over 30 Years of Continuous NSF Support

Posted Dec. 5, 2012
TandySince joining the faculty at Kent State University in 1979, Professor Peter Tandy (Department of Physics) has maintained a research program that has merited continuous funding from the National Science Foundation through Division of Physics programs in Nuclear Theory and Theoretical Physics. Over the past 33 years, Tandy has received 15 grants from NSF. These awards, along with grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, represent over $2.4 million in funding.

Tandy’s research area is subatomic physics which focuses on particles that are smaller than an atom such as protons and neutrons, which are composite particles made up of even smaller quarks and gluons. He says work in this area addresses fundamental questions about “where matter comes from.” 

The quality of Tandy’s work has been recognized throughout his career. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1996 for his exceptional contributions to the study of composite particles in field theories of nuclear and particle physics. Only half of 1% of APS members may be elected as Fellows each year. In 2001, he received KSU’s Distinguished Scholar Award. 

In 2010, Tandy collaborated with three other researchers who challenged the conventional point of view that a vacuum is filled with virtual quarks and gluons making up the so-called quark condensate; their theoretical analysis strongly suggested that this condensate can only exist within a composite particle. This would help explain why the measured rate of acceleration of the expansion of the universe is 46 orders of magnitude less than the conventional theoretical picture of the vacuum; their results were published in The Physical Review, one of the top physics journals. 

While it takes good ideas to successfully compete for external funding, Tandy stresses that investigators must also be able to convince reviewers and sponsors that the research will lead to new understanding and that the project personnel have all of the necessary capabilities.  

He acknowledges that balancing research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities can be difficult, especially in the early years of a career. Tandy says “the excitement of finding out how nature works” motivates him to continue research, and that “there is nothing that can compare to the thrill of finding, late one night, amidst a mess of equations, a better understanding of even a small thing that you know nobody else in the world knows.” 

Tandy advises colleagues seeking external funding to “identify forefront areas of the discipline” and to write proposals in a way that shows the “unique point of view, expertise, or strategy you can bring to bear on the research problem.” He also suggests practical strategies for increasing chances of success such as using funded proposals as models when writing a new proposal and seeking advice from program officers as a first step in the submission process.