Steffen A. Bass
Professor of Physics

Prof. Bass' main area of research is strong interaction theory, in particular the study of highly excited many-body systems governed by the laws of Quantum-Chromo-Dynamics (QCD).

It is believed that shortly after the creation of the universe in the Big Bang the entire universe existed as a hot and dense plasma of fundamental particles that interacted via a single unified force. As the primordial fire ball expanded and consequentially cooled, the four fundamental forces that we observe today became distinct. The relative importance of these four forces, the strong nuclear, weak nuclear, electromagnetic and gravitational force, in shaping the universe varied as the energy-matter density evolved. In this cosmic picture, about a microsecond after the primordial explosion, the universe was in a state called the Quark Gluon Plasma (QGP) in which quarks and gluons, the basic constituents of the strong interaction force, QCD, roamed freely. Due to the rapid expansion of the universe, this plasma went through a phase transition to form hadrons - most importantly nucleons - which constitute the building blocks of matter as we know it today.

It has been only in the last ten years that accelerators have been in operation that give us the capabilities to create the conditions of temperature and density in the laboratory that are favorable for the QGP to exist. The Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the accompaniment of detector systems were built specifically to observe and study this phase of matter. Similar studies have recently commenced at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. The experiments at RHIC have discovered a new form of ultra-dense matter with unprecedented properties, a plasma composed of unbound quarks and gluons, that appears to behave as a nearly ``perfect liquid.''

The central problem in the study of the QGP is that its lifetime is so short that only the ashes of its decay (in the form of hadrons) can be detected. In addition, the deconfined quanta of a QGP are not directly observable due to the fundamental confining property of the physical quantum chromodynamics vacuum, i.e. the properties of the underlying quantum-field theory governing its interactions. One of the main tasks in relativistic heavy-ion research is to find clear and unambiguous connections between the transient (quark-gluon) plasma state and the experimentally observable hadronic final state.

Prof. Bass is actively involved in developing models for the dynamics of such highly energetic heavy-ion collisions. His research involves the application of transport theory, statistical mechanics, heavy-ion phenomenology, as well as the fundamental laws of QCD. Only through the application of dynamical models of heavy-ion collisions and the comparison of their predictions with data, may a link be formed between the observable hadronic and leptonic final state of the heavy-ion reaction and the transient deconfined state of quarks and gluons.

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