Cesar Agon, a graduate student in the High-Energy and Gravitational Theory group, was awarded a prestigious Graduate Fellowship at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. KITP is one of the world’s leading centers for research in all areas of theoretical physics. In addition to having its own faculty and postdocs, it hosts visiting faculty from around the world and holds conferences and semester-long programs on topics of current interest. The Graduate Fellowship program allows exceptional students to benefit from this activity and the scientific ambience of KITP by spending a semester there. This is a very competitive program, with only about half a dozen students coming from around the world each semester. Agon, who is advised by Profs. Matthew Headrick, Albion Lawrence, and Howard Schnitzer, is currently spending the spring term at KITP, before heading off to Stony Brook University as a postdoc in the fall.
Back in the summer of 2015, Agon had the opportunity to visit KITP during two important programs on the physics frontiers, both of special interest to him, namely ”Entanglement in Strongly-Correlated Quantum Matter” and ”Quantum Gravity Foundations: UV to IR”. That was a great opportunity to meet in person the leaders of the field from around the world in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the KITP. Discussions among the researchers and students were tremendously common all around the institute and there were many activities that facilitated such discussions such as daily coffees, lunches, and dinners.
In his new visit as a Graduate Fellow in 2017, Agon has found once again most of what he saw in his previous visit. The current program, “Scattering Amplitudes and Beyond”, expands his current knowledge of Quantum Field Theory and is of help in his preparation for his upcoming postdoctoral job. Scattering amplitudes are quantities of interest in quantum field theory since they encode the basic information one needs to make predictions and test them against accelerator experiments. In addition, being a local now allows him to explore more of what KITP and UCSB have to offer. Faculty, postdocs, and grad students discuss physics every day over lunch overlooking the beautiful lagoon. Furthermore, two seminars are programmed weekly, as well as colloquia and postdoc and graduate student journal clubs. These kinds of activities are extremely useful, as they facilitate the essential but difficult process of being up to date on the relevant current work in the field (broadly defined), and making collaborations with various members of both KITP and UCSB easier and more natural for him.
During his stay, Agon has had the opportunity to give talks at local events (Pacific Gravity Meeting) as well as at the weekly group seminar, and he has started a collaboration with KITP postdoc Tomonori Ugajin on some interesting entanglement entropy related projects. One of them seeks to study the gravitational duals to certain contributions to the entanglement entropy of excited CFT states, while the second looks for a better understanding of the universal behavior of the ground state entanglement entropy between disjoint regions in the small separation regime. His preliminary work has been dedicated to studying some of the techniques that have proved useful in previous work (related to bulk emergence and the proofs of energy conditions on quantum field theories) and which they believe will be also useful in solving these problems.
Although the scientific activity was Agon’s main motivation to visit KITP, one has to also acknowledge the beauty that Santa Barbara and its surroundings offer. The most remarkable for him was the enormous diversity of the natural environment, which is not limited to the gorgeous beaches but also includes a variety of fauna and flora in the nearby mountains, which range from the tropical to dessert-like, and the vast flat lands that fill the space in between, all of this in an almost invariant perfect weather all year long. The city itself keeps a beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture, an authentic and large variety of delicious Mexican cuisine, and a considerable amount of cultural activities with special emphasis on art in all its forms.