Neil Turok (PhD Imperial College London, 1983) was Professor of Physics at Princeton University and Chair of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge before assuming his current position as Director of Perimeter Institute. In 2013 he was re-appointed for a second term and additionally awarded the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Niels Bohr Chair at the institute. Neil's research focuses on developing fundamental theories of cosmology and new observational tests. His predictions for the correlations of the polarization and temperature of the cosmic background radiation (CBR) and of the galaxy-CBR correlations induced by dark energy have been recently confirmed. With Stephen Hawking, he discovered instanton solutions describing the birth of inflationary universes. His work on open inflation forms the basis of the widely discussed multiverse paradigm. With Paul Steinhardt, he developed an alternative, cyclic model for cosmology, whose predictions are so far in agreement with all observational tests. Among his many honours, Turok was awarded Sloan and Packard Fellowships and the James Clerk Maxwell medal of the Institute of Physics (UK). He is a Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Fellow in Cosmology and Gravity and a Senior Fellow of Massey College in the University of Toronto. In 2012, Turok was selected to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures, broadcast across Canada. The lectures were published as “The Universe Within,” a bestseller which won the 2013 Lane Anderson award, Canada's top prize for popular science writing. Born in South Africa, Turok founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town in 2003. AIMS has since expanded to a network of four centres - in South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, and Cameroon - and has become Africa's most renowned institution for postgraduate training in mathematical science. For his scientific discoveries and his work founding and developing AIMS, Turok was awarded a TED Prize in 2008. He has also been recognized with awards from the World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WSIE) and the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE).
Currently, my research interests include:
1) Understanding whether one can describe a realistic cosmological "bounce," in which the universe transitions from collapse to expansion, within a semi-classical description of quantum gravity.
2) Developing a new approach to semi-classical quantum mechanics, capable of providing a precise description of quantum processes such as tunneling, in real time. Such a method would have a huge range of applications, from condensed matter systems to the decay of today"s Higgs vacuum, to the evaporation of black holes.
3) Understanding the effects of nonlinearities on the evolution of cosmological perturbations in the very early universe. In particular, the formation of shocks in the plasma would naturally generate strong departures from local thermal equilibrium (potentially important for baryogenesis) as well as vorticity (potentially important for the generation of primordial magnetic fields.
4) I am intrigued by the results of recent measurements of the large scale structure of the universe. The presence of dark energy, the extraordinary simple nature of the primordial perturbations, and the apparent absence of additional particles beyond the standard model bring into question current theoretical prejudice and may be profound clues to new physical principles which I would like to discover. I am very interested in exploring new frameworks (e.g. the spontaneous breakdown of conformal symmetry) and approaches to fundamental physics on very small, and very large scales.