Page 15 - UCT2012 Research Dashboard

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Research Dashboard
Professor Weigert's research centres on matter as it
occurred in the early Universe, very shortly after the Big
Bang, when the Universe was immensely hot – more than
100 000 times hotter than the centre of the sun. "This
state of matter, the quark gluon plasma, is recreated
today at the most powerful particle accelerators we have
– the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, and
the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National
Laboratory (BNL) on Long Island near New York," says
Professor Weigert.
He describes himself as a theoretical physicist and was
one of the driving forces in the formulation of what is
known today as the Colour Glass Condensate, another
extreme state of matter that sets the initial conditions in
the accelerator experiments at CERN and BNL. One of his
reasons for moving to UCT was to join a growing group
of both theorists and experimentalists directly involved in
this massive international effort to uncover the deepest
secrets of the Universe.
He has considerable international experience, having
conducted research in Germany, the USA, the UK, and
Denmark, and obtained his Habilitation at the University
of Regensburg. In addition, he spent a semester as a
visiting full professor in Bielefeld, Germany, and served as
a research associate professor at the University of Oulu,
Finland, for three years. Since April 2011, he has been an
associate professor in the Department of Physics at UCT,
and in 2011 he became director of the university's Centre
of Theoretical and Mathematical Physics. One of his goals
is to focus on nurturing and expanding the research group
and linking it to the national and international scientific
particle physics community.
In the meantime, Professor Weigert plans to continue
navigating the labyrinthine ways of the early Universe, in
his quest to shed new light on its origins and, hopefully,
take a calculated step towards answering the greatest
question of them all: why are we here, and how did it
all begin?
Professor Heribert Weigert
An honorary professor in the Department of Psychiatry and
Mental Health since 2010, Professor Van Honk first came to
work at UCT in 2008, and now spends 10 months of each
year at UCT and two months teaching at his alma mater,
Utrecht University, in social and affective neuroscience.
Professor Van Honk leads several UCT research projects,
funded by entities in South Africa, the Netherlands and the
USA. His core field of research is social neuroscience and
his fields of specialisation are psychoneuroendocrinology,
affective neuroscience, and neuropsychology, on which he
has published prolifically, with 75 research and theoretical
papers in peer-reviewed journals in the past eight years alone.
His research underpins the development of innovative
treatment strategies, such as hormone manipulation
and transcranial magnetic stimulation, to treat fear
and aggression disorders like psychopathy, impulsive
aggression, psychological trauma, and human phobia.
"Social neuroscience," according to Professor Van Honk,
"provides an excellent foundation for the creation of a
so-called common body of knowledge, as it combines
techniques and insights gained from psychology, sociology,
neuroscience, biology, and economics. My personal interest
in this fascinating realm is not only to gain fundamental
understandings of the psychology of human social behaviour,
but also to understand and seek innovative treatments for
the psychopathologies of fear and aggression."
Within the Department of Psychiatry, Professor Van Honk
is building capacity in psychobiological research among
psychiatric populations. He also supervises research in social
phobia and psychological trauma. Another project he leads,
together with colleague, Dr Barak Morgan (Department of
Human Biology), is a new line of research on Urbach-Wiethe
disease (UWD), an extremely rare genetic-developmental
disorder, characterised by bilateral focal calcifications of
the amygdala in the brain. Research has shown that the
amygdala play an important role in the ’social brain‘,
processing memory and emotional reactions, such as social
threat processing, empathy, and fear conditioning. The
Northern Cape is home to almost 20% of the estimated 200
people worldwide to suffer from UWD.
Shedding light on the
Universe's deepest secrets
Looking back into the deepest recesses of time, into a
Universe immeasurably different from the one we know
today, has earned UCT's Professor Heribert Weigert an A
rating from the National Research Foundation.