A celebration of physics in the Balkans

3 March 2023
BPU11 participants
Exciting times BPU11 participants during a social event on the Sava-Danube. Credit: B Džodan

The 11th General Conference of the Balkan Physical Union (BPU11 Congress) took place from 28 August to 1 September 2022 in Belgrade, with the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts as the main host. Initiated in 1991 in Thessaloniki, Greece, and open to participants globally, the series provides a platform for reviewing, disseminating and discussing novel research results in physics and related fields. 

The scientific scope of BPU11 covered the full landscape of physics via 139 lectures (12 plenary and 23 invited) and 150 poster presentations. A novel addition was five roundtables dedicated to high-energy physics (HEP), widening participation, careers in physics, quantum and new technologies, and models of studying physics in European universities with a focus on Balkan countries. The hybrid event attracted about 476 participants (325 on site) from 31 countries, 159 of whom were students, and demonstrated the high level of research conducted in the Balkan states.

Roadmaps to the future

The first roundtable “HEP – roadmaps to the future” showed the strong collaboration between CERN and the Balkan states. Four out of 23 CERN Member States come from the region (Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Romania); two out of three Associate Member States in the pre-stage to membership are Cyprus and Slovenia; and two out of seven Associate Member States are Croatia and Turkey. A further four countries have cooperation agreements with CERN, and more than 400 CERN users come from the Balkans. 

Kicking off the HEP roundtable discussions, CERN director for research and computing Joachim Mnich presented the recently launched accelerator and detector R&D roadmaps in Europe. Paris Sphicas (CERN and the University of Athens) reported on the future of particle-physics research, during which he underlined the current challenges and opportunities. These included: dark matter (for example the search for WIMPs in the thermal parameter region, the need to check simplified models such as axial-vector and di-lepton resonances, and indirect searches); supersymmetry (the search for “holes” in the low-mass region that will exist even after the LHC); neutrinos (whether neutrinos are Majorana or Dirac particles, their mass measurement and exploration of a possible “sterile” sector); as well as a comprehensive review of the Higgs sector. 

CERN’s Emmanuel Tsesmelis, who was awarded the Balkan Physical Union charter and honorary membership in recognition of his contributions to cooperation between the Balkan states and CERN, reflected on the proposed Future Circular Collider (FCC). Describing the status of the FCC feasibility study, due to be completed by the end of 2025, he stressed that the success of the project relies on strong global participation. His presentation initiated a substantial discussion about the role of the Balkan countries, which will be continued in May 2023 at the 11th LHCP conference in Belgrade.

The roundtable devoted to quantum technologies (QTs), chaired by Enrique Sanchez of the European Physical Society (EPS), was another highlight with strong relevance to HEP. Various perspectives on the different QT sectors – computing and simulation, communication, metrology and sensing – were discussed, touching upon the impact they could have on society at large. Europe plays a leading role in quantum research, concluded the panel. However, despite increased interest in QTs, including at CERN, issues such as how to obtain appropriate funding to enhance European technological leadership, remain. Discussions highlighted the opportunities for new generations of physicists from the Balkans to help build this “second quantum revolution”. 

In addition to the roundtables, four high-level scientific satellite events took place, attracting a further 150 on-site participants: the COST Workshop on Theoretical Aspects of Quantum Gravity; the SEENET–MTP Assessment Meeting and Workshop; the COST School on Quantum Gravity Phenomenology in the Multi-Messenger Approach; and the CERN–SEENET–MTP–ICTP PhD School on Gravitation, Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. The latter is part of a unique regional programme in HEP initiated by SEENET–MTP (Southeastern European Network in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics) and CERN in 2015, and joined by the ICTP in 2018, which has contributed to the training of more than 200 students in 12 SEENET countries. 

The BPU11 Congress, the largest event of its type in the region since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, contributed to closer cooperation between the Balkan countries and CERN, ICTP, SISSA, the Central European Initiative and others. It was possible thanks to the support of the EPS, ICTP and CEI-Trieste, CERN, EPJ, as well as the Serbian ministry of science and institutions active in physics and mathematics in Serbia. In addition to the BPU11 PoS Proceedings, several articles based on invited lectures will be published in a focus issue of EPJ Plus “On Physics in the Balkans: Perspectives and Challenges”, as well as in a special issue of IJMPA.

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