30 under 30: A Practitioner of Quantum Chromodynamics and Classical Ballet

Meet Letícia Palhares, 27, one of the up-and-coming physicists attending this year's Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
Brazilian physicist Leticia Palhares

Courtesy Leticia Palhares

The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting brings a wealth of scientific minds to the shores of Germany’s Lake Constance. Every summer at Lindau, dozens of Nobel Prize winners exchange ideas with hundreds of young researchers from around the world. Whereas the Nobelists are the marquee names, the younger contingent is an accomplished group in its own right. In advance of this year’s meeting, which focuses on physics, we are profiling several promising attendees under the age of 30. The profile below is the first in a series of 30.

Name: Letícia Faria Domingues Palhares
Age: 27
Born: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nationality: Brazilian and Portuguese

Current position: Postdoctoral scholar, State University of Rio de Janeiro
Education: Bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

What is your field of research?
I investigate different aspects of nonperturbative quantum chromodynamics, from the mechanism of confinement in vacuum to the different phases of matter under extreme conditions of temperature and density, as found in the early universe, ultra-relativistic heavy-ion collisions and ultra-compact stars.

What drew you to physics, and to that research area in particular?
What brought me to physics in the first place was the desire of continuously learning new things and in some sense my choice of research area also reflects this, since the study of nonperturbative quantum chromodynamics media is a very interdisciplinary topic, requiring usage of tools from statistical mechanics and quantum field theory combined with phenomenological knowledge of particle and nuclear physics as well as analogous condensed matter systems.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see myself as a university professor in Brazil always keeping my desire of investigating new topics at the edge of scientific knowledge as well as re-learning from a different perspective basic and classical results while teaching and guiding students.

Who are your scientific heroes?
I do not have specific heroes, but whoever made me (or allowed me to) admire the beauty and complexity of yet another aspect of nature felt like a hero for me at that moment.

What activities outside of physics do you most enjoy?
A hobby that has been mostly present in my life since early years and that I value a lot is classical ballet. This is an activity that exercises mind and body in a different way and helps me to reset my thoughts when I need it the most.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
The Lindau Meeting is a unique opportunity to acquire a rich picture of nature as viewed by the elite of physics. More important than to accumulate specific knowledge, the close contact with the vision of Nobel winners of their fields is extremely inspiring for a young researcher, like me, who is starting to build their own approach to scientific questions. Also, the diversity of areas enhances the experience of contrasting different views, identifying alignments and experiencing the complementarity of various successful scientific approaches. I hope to leave Lindau inspired by the examples and vision of Nobelists, carrying a broad and rich picture of physics and how it should be pursued.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet or learn from at Lindau?
Even though it will be extremely interesting to have contact with Nobel winners from my field of research, like [Martinus J. G.] Veltman and [David] Gross, I am particularly interested in comparing visions of Nobel winners from very different domains and approaches, theorists and experimentalists.

  30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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