Research topics

A broad field of topics in particle physics is open to doctoral candidates of the IMPRS EPP. The participating research groups are engaged with physics beyond the Standard Model: How did dark matter come into being? Does supersymmetry exist? How can the excess of matter in the universe be explained?

These questions are, on the one hand, being delineated with theoretical calculations and models, while on the other hand scientists are working toward making phenomena that theory predicts “visible” by means of experimental facilities.

Here you can get an overview of all research groups and experimental facilities with which you will be able to find topics for your doctoral work.

Together with scientists from around the world, physicists at MPP and LMU have developed and constructed the particle detector ATLAS. ATLAS is an LHC experiment at the European research centre CERN in Geneva. ATLAS records the results of proton-proton collisions produced by the LHC. From that, the researchers gain insights about the fundamental building blocks of matter as well as their interactions. They are looking for physics beyond the Standard Model, such as supersymmetry or the existence of higher dimensions of space and time and the origin of the dark matter that holds our universe together.
Why is there matter in the universe, but hardly any antimatter? Researchers from the MPP, LMU and TUM are participating in pursuing this question at the Belle II experiment in Japan. In the particle accelerator SuperKEKB, matter (electrons) and antimatter (positrons) are brought into collision. Among the particles produced as a result, the researchers are searching for indications that could explain the surplus of matter.

IMPRS Lecturers: T. Barillari (MPP, ATLAS), S. Bethke (MPP, ATLAS), O. Biebel (LMU, ATLAS), A. Caldwell (MPP, AWAKE, BELLE, GERDA, MADMAX), B. Döbrich (MPP, NA62, RADES/babyIAXO), L. Fabbietti (TUM, ALICE), L. Heinrich (TUM, ATLAS, Data Science), M. Kado (MPP, ATLAS), S. Kluth (MPP, ATLAS), O. Kortner (MPP, ATLAS), S. Kortner (MPP, ATLAS), H. Kroha (MPP, ATLAS), Th. Kuhr (LMU, BELLE), S. Menke (MPP, ATLAS), H.-G. Moser (MPP, BELLE), R. Nisius (MPP, ATLAS), S. Paul (TUM, BELLE)

Scientists at MPP and TUM are involved in several non-accelerator based experiments, such as the CRESST and COSINUS experiments searching for dark matter; the GERDA, LEGEND and KATRIN/TRISTAN experiments studying the nature of neutrinos. Scientists at TUM are involved also in the ICECUBE neutrino observatory searching for dark matter, for example, and in the NU-CLEUS project exploring coherent neutrino-nucleus scattering at a nuclear power reactor. Searches for axion dark matter are currently under preparation at the MPP with MADMAX and RADES/babyIAXO.


The observation of the universe through high-energy gamma-rays is of paramount importance for the understanding of the most extreme astrophysical environments, where particles are accelerated to energies much higher than those that can be produced in Earth-based laboratories. The MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov) telescopes are the most sensitive Cherenkov telescopes in the world and allow astrophysicists to obtain first class data. Currently, a new observatory is being built to further expand the options for observing gamma rays: the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) will consist of 120 individual telescopes that detect gamma rays over a wide energy spectrum. Locations in the northern and southern hemispheres will make it possible to cover the whole night sky.

IMPRS Lecturers: F. Capel (MPP), R. Mirzoyan (MPP, MAGIC/CTA), D. Paneque (MPP, FERMI/MAGIC/CTA), M. Teshima (MPP/Univ. of Tokyo, MAGIC/CTA), Th. Schweizer (MPP, MAGIC/CTA)

The AWAKE (Advanced Proton Driven Plasma Wakefield Acceleration Experiment) group at the MPP is investigating a new method to accelerate particles to high energies. The method involves injecting a proton beam into a plasma, i.e. an ionized gas. En route, the protons entrain negatively charged plasma electrons and thus generate a kind of bow wave. If a beam of electrons is injected at a suitable point in time, they are carried along by the wave, just like a surfer riding a wave. The MPP is currently leading the AWAKE project at CERN.

IMPRS Lecturers: A. Caldwell (MPP, AWAKE, GERDA/LEGEND, MADMAX), P. Muggli (MPP, AWAKE)

The discovery of the Higgs particle at the CERN LHC in Geneva in the year 2012 marks a big success both of theoretical and experimental particle physics. While the LHC so far has been successful in ruling out further new particles in large areas of parameter space, particles with higher masses may be hiding within the data already taken, and data to be collected in future runs. Indirect evidence for new physics could be seen, e.g. in deviations from precise SM predictions in the Higgs or top-quark sector. Obtaining theoretical predictions for various collider processes with high precision is one of the research directions of the IMPRS lecturers. The lecturers develop novel methods for calculating the necessary loop corrections in quantum field theory.
The collider physics topics are closely related to fundamental questions in theoretical astroparticle physics. What makes up the dark matter that determines the dynamics of galaxies and cosmic structures? What explanation can account for the dark energy that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate? Why is there normal matter in the universe, but hardly any antimatter? What role do neutrinos play in cosmology and astrophysics? Where are the astrophysical accelerators that are responsible for high-energy cosmic rays?

Lecturers: M. Beneke (TUM), N. Brambilla (TUM), G. Buchalla (LMU), B. Garbrecht (TUM), M. Garny (TUM), R. Gauld (MPP), Th. Hahn (MPP), U. Haisch (MPP), J. Harz (TUM), J. Henn (MPP), W. Hollik (MPP), A. Ibarra (TUM), G. Raffelt (MPP), F. Steffen (MPP), L. Tancredi (TUM), A. Vairo (TUM), A. Weiler (TUM), M. Wiesemann (MPP), G. Zanderighi (MPP)

The main focus of the research of the cosmology groups at the MPP and LMU is to understand the fundamental structure of elementary particle physics and gravity and to establish connections between observations performed at very different scales, such as in collider or table-top laboratory experiments, as well as in cosmological and astrophysical observations. This includes the understanding of the quantum substructure of black holes and of cosmological space-times, the ultraviolet completion of the SM and gravity, and building models beyond the SM for addressing long-standing puzzles such as the hierarchy problem, the origin of quark and lepton families, the strong CP problem, the origin of dark matter and dark energy, and the microscopic origin of inflation.

IMPRS Lecturers:  P. Benincasa (MPP), L. Berezhiani (MPP), G. Dvali (LMU/MPP), V. Mukhanov (LMU), J. Weller (LMU)

During the last three years several new and challenging research directions have been opened in the string theory and quantum gravity groups of the MPP and the LMU. For example, the MPP group made profound contributions to the so-called swampland program. The idea is that only specific lower dimensional effective field theories can be consistent with quantum gravity/string theory. The task is to formulate simple criteria to decide whether an effective field theory is in the landscape of string theory or in the swampland.
In addition, there are surprising relationships in string theory between different physical theories, so-called dualities. One of these dualities, the anti-de Sitter space/conformal field theory (AdS/CFT) correspondence, posits a relationship between gravitational theory and quantum field theory. With this, scientists at the MPP and LMU are exploring new connections between string theory and the physics of the strong interaction, which is dominant between quarks and gluons. In this context, an important avenue of research is the study of scattering amplitudes in gauge and gravity theories. For example, researchers explore the question to what extent scattering amplitudes are determined by their symmetries and analytic properties. This topic is closely connected to the phenomenology of elementary particles, as scattering amplitudes are the basic ingredients for cross sections.

IMPRS Lecturers: P. Benincasa (MPP), R. Blumenhagen (MPP), I. Brunner (LMU), M. Haack (LMU), J. Henn (MPP), D. Lüst (LMU/MPP), S. Stieberger (MPP)