PhD student awarded Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship
Alexandra Terrana is one of three York University PhD students who are recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, receiving $50,000 annually for up to three years to support her research. The Vanier is the most prestigious graduate scholarship offered in Canada and recipients are selected based on their leadership and high standard of scholarly achievement in doctoral studies.
“I want to congratulate our Vanier recipients on their outstanding personal achievements, and also to thank them for the maintenance of a vibrant intellectual environment at York,” says Barbara Crow, dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Terrana, supervised by Professor Matt Johnson of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, notes that while Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity is widely accepted as the correct theory of gravity, it is known to have problems describing the universe on very large scales.Terrana works in the field of theoretical cosmology, studying mathematical models used to describe the evolution of the universe on the largest scales. “My current project aims to determine the cosmological implications of modifying our current theory of gravitation in the hopes of solving some of the major outstanding mysteries in modern physics, such as dark energy,” she says.
“To make the theory match our observations, physicists need to invoke hypothetical dark matter and energy components that must make up 96 per cent of our universe,” she says. “After decades of dedication towards understanding this dark sector, it largely remains a mystery. An exciting direction of research that aims to solve this puzzle is to modify our theory of gravity so that we can accurately model the universe without dark matter or dark energy.”
As the new theory must be mathematically consistent, and be able to describe all of the physical phenomena we observe, this will prove to be a large challenge. Terrana notes that “massive gravity” is one of the most successful attempts to modify gravity to date, but a lot is unknown about its predictions for time-dependent phenomena such as gravitational collapse.
The hope is that by analyzing the time-dependent equations in massive gravity, it will determine the ultimate viability of the theory as a description of nature.
The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships are available to both Canadian and international PhD students studying at Canadian universities.
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