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Jaco de Swart, a PhD candidate in the history of physics at the Institute of Physics, is the first recipient of a brand new fellowship of the American Institute of Physics: the AIP Robert H.G. Helleman Memorial Postdoctoral Fellowship. With the fellowship, De Swart will be a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jaco de Swart - credit: Sander Nieuwenhuys
Jaco de Swart - credit: Sander Nieuwenhuys

De Swart will take his fellowship to MIT's Program in Science Technology and Society, and the Center for Theoretical Physics. There, he will be spending his time examining the history of dark matter research and the origins of the connection between particle physics and cosmology. This is an extension on his dissertation work on dark matter and the history of cosmology.

"How can we understand the origins of our cosmological theories? What do these origins teach us about the norms and practices that are involved in producing knowledge of the universe? And how can these theories help understand current-day cosmological conundrums?" he said. "Guided by such questions, and through engaging with both historians and physicists, I want to bring about a dialogue between physicists and the history of their field."

About the fellowship

In his will, Dutch physicist Robert H.G. Helleman bequeathed funds for AIP to establish an endowment to support graduate students or postdoctoral fellows with Dutch citizenship to pursue research activities in physics and its subdisciplines in the United States. Helleman, who died in 2017, was an expert in the field of nonlinear dynamics and a professor in physics at University of Houston.

Besides postdoctoral fellowships, the Helleman Fellowships at the American Institute of Physics also include graduate and short term research fellowships. Robert van Leeuwen, also a PhD candidate at the IoP, has received a grant to visit Princeton University for his research on the history of string theory.

The Helleman Fellowship opportunities will be announced annually. More information is available on the website of the American Institute of Physics.