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The Center for Theoretical Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences was founded on 1st May 1980 on the initiative of Professor Iwo Białynicki-Birula, a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, who subsequently served for many years as its director. In the first 12 years of its existence the institution was known by the name of the Department of Theoretical Physics. The present-day Center for Theoretical Physics is one of the smallest, yet most active research institutions of the Academy of Sciences.
The Center conducts scientific activity in a number of important sectors of theoretical physics, astrophysics and life sciences. These are:
In 2020 the Center employed a staff of 52 scientists, including 17 professors.
From the Center's inception to this day, its employees produced more than 2000 publications (including more than 300 in PBN database), mostly in the world's leading physical scientific magazines, including for instance more than 80 articles in Physical Review and 15 in Physical Review Letters (available in PBN repository since 2013). Statistically speaking, each employee of the center produces an average of 2 publications per year.
In the very first evaluation of Poland's research institutions, carried out by the Polish Committee for Scientific Research (KBN) just after the latter's formation, the Center for Theoretical Physics was already ranked in the A category, and since then it has never lost its leading position among the P03 group of institutes. After the categorization system was altered in 2005, the Center once again secured a classification in the highest category (Cat. 1) based on the parametric evaluation of scientific achievements in 2001-2004, and was ranked in second place in Poland among institutes working in the fields of physics and astronomy. In recent years the Center obtained again A category.
The Center pursues research both as part of its statutory activity and under the framework of various projects commissioned by national and international research agencies. From 1990 to now, approximately 90 national and international research projects were carried out at the Center. In recent years, we have been carrying out few ERC grants and research projects funded by the Templeton Foundation.
In 2002, the Center created a very active national scientific network, the "Laboratory of Physical Foundations of Information Processing", including 12 scientific institutions from the most important scientific centers in Poland. On behalf of this network the Center led a three-year commissioned research project entitled "Informatics and Quantum Engineering", with about 20 scientific institutions from all over the country participating.
A crucial part of the Center's activity involves cooperation with foreign research centers. Such collaboration has given rise to numerous research articles published jointly with scientists from affiliated foreign institutions, mainly European and American. As part of such cooperation, we have trained many young physicists from other countries, drawing upon funding from the EU projects.
However, one of the most important statutory tasks of the Center for Theoretical Physics is training young physicists from Poland. This is done by hiring research assistants under regular employment contracts, rather than under the framework of doctoral programs. Since the Center's inception, approximately 70 young employees have prepared their doctoral dissertations in the course of their employment at the Center and earned Ph.D. degrees. Most of them continue their academic work, not only at Polish but also at American and Western European research institutes and universities. More than a dozen of them have already obtained the title of professor.
The employees of the Centre for Theoretical Physics have received numerous prizes and awards for outstanding achievements in research. Professor Jerzy Kijowski and Professor Kazimierz Rzążewski are winners of the MASTER program funded by the Foundation for Polish Science. In 2013, Professor Kazimierz Rzążewski received the Galileo Prize awarded by the International Committee of Optics, and in 2014 he earned an honorary doctorate from the University of Stuttgart. The main prize of the Foundation for Polish Science (commonly called the "Polish Nobel") in the field of physical sciences has been won as many as three times by scientists associated with our institution. In 2011 it was received by Professor Maciej Lewenstein, our former doctoral student and longtime employee, now working at the prestigious Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona (Spain). The prize was awarded to our founder Professor Iwo Białynicki-Birula in 2014, then one year later, in 2015, it was received by Professor Kazimierz Rzążewski.
One of the main objectives of the Centre for Theoretical Physics, since its establishment, has been to participate in the education of young physicists at the undergraduate level, i.e. before they obtain a master's degree. In 1993 on the initiative of 6 scientific institutions of Polish Academy of Sciences (with the greatest contributions coming from the Center for Theoretical Physics, the Institute of Physics and the Institute of Physical Chemistry), a "School of Science" was established, as Poland’s first non-state institution of higher education. The school harnessed the intellectual resources and facilities of the Polish Academy of Sciences in the process of educating students as potential scientists. The School developed its own interdisciplinary curriculum, combining the elements of mathematics, physics, computer science and chemistry. Until 2001, the Center staff did not receive any remuneration for their work teaching at the School. In 2001, the School of Science received top billing in the ranking of universities published by the major Polish weekly magazine Wprost. Starting from the academic year 2001/2002, under an agreement between the School authorities, its constituent PAS institutions, and the authorities of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, the School of Science became part of the latter's Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (the only case in Poland when a non-public institution of higher education was incorporated into a public one).
The Center for Theoretical Physics plays an important role in the popularization of science and its employees have initiated the leading popular science events nationally. Professor L. A. Turski is the founder of the Radio BIS Science Picnic, which has been organized annually since 1997, lauded by the European Commission as one of the 10 model European "Science and Society" projects, and has won both national awards and the gold medal of the European Physical Society. Professor L. A. Turski was also a prime mover in the creation of the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw, Poland’s first center for hands-on experimentation and science education, and he serves as chairman of its Program Board.
The Center for Theoretical Physics is also a Polish partner of the "Hands on Universe" international program, addressed to teachers and students of secondary schools. This program is a tool for popularizing science by means of authentic astronomical observations transmitted live over the Internet from foreign telescopes participating in the program, including the excellent Hubble Telescope. This program makes it possible for secondary school students and university students to access remote-controlled telescopes and CCD cameras.
Prof. Lech Mankiewicz is the initiator and creator of the Polish version of the Khan Academy portal, which offers a huge amount of teaching materials in mathematics and physics, which serve as learning aids on various levels: from primary schools to universities. He is also the "Polish Language Advocate" for the Khan Academy.
The Center's staff are also very active in the media, publishing popular-science articles, providing commentaries to radio and television programs concerning physics (eg. Professor L. A. Turski), and giving interviews for the radio, television and the press (eg. Professor L. Mankiewicz).
|1||Theory of Gravity: mathematical structure, astrophysical and cosmological applications||Prof. Mikołaj Korzyński||Prof. Jerzy Juliusz Kijowski|
|2||Complex quantum systems and their applications||Prof. Marek Kuś||Prof. Karol Życzkowski|
|3||Quantum gas physics||Prof. Kazimierz Maria Rzążewski||Prof. Lech Mankiewicz, Prof. Krzysztof Pawłowski|
|4||Astrophysics||Prof. Agnieszka Janiuk||Prof. Bożena Jadwiga Czerny|
|5||Science and Society||Prof. Łukasz Andrzej Turski|
|6||Cartan connexion and special contact geometries||Prof. Paweł Krzysztof Nurowski|
|7||Quantum calculations, topology and geometry in quantum mechanics||Prof. Adam Sawicki||Prof. Iwo Białynicki-Birula, Prof. Michał Oszmaniec|
|8||Non-classical correlations in complex physical systems||Prof. Remigiusz Augusiak|
|9||Testing GR and alternatives using galaxy density and velocity fields||Prof. Wojciech Andrzej Hellwing||Dr Maciej Andrzej Bilicki|
|10||Evolution of quantum open systems vs. quantum-classical transition||Prof. Jarosław Korbicz|
Statutory task no. 5: Science and Society
The CTP is the only research unit of the Polish Academy of Sciences that has been involved for 17 years in a range of practical efforts to foster greater science awareness among the broadest possible groups of society, in particular among school and university students. The outcomes of such efforts have included the creation of an interdisciplinary "School of Science" (subsequently incorporated into the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw) and the organization by CTP staff members of Poland's largest science-education initiatives: the Science Picnic, the Copernicus Science Centre, and most recently developing a Polish version of the Khan Academy.
The massive changes that have occurred in the IT field in recent years demand a thorough rethinking and recalibration of educational methods, if education is meant to be the main driving force behind the development of a knowledge-based society in Poland. This explains the need for a "Science and Society" line of research (which unfortunately gains insufficient attention in Poland) at the CTP. The first study, slated for 2014, involved analyzing existing practices and working out guidelines as to the necessary changes in how the natural sciences are taught, starting from regular primary schools up, based on a critical analysis of the current curriculum and an indication of the consequences of these changes in further stages of education.
The outcome of this work will involve preparing an evaluation of the situation in Polish schools in light of the changes taking place in the world in this respect. In recent years, the CTP has done much work in the "Science and Society" field, though it was fragmented and not systematized as a single research task. All educational results achieved in the "Science and Society" field have a direct practical impact. The CTP is the only research unit in Poland that has the ability to directly confront its research in this field against the actual practices of education, through its existing strong cooperative ties with schools.