University of Pittsburgh

Eric S. Swanson

Associate Professor
University of Pittsburgh
404 Allen Hall

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

O: (412) 624–9057
F: (412) 624–9163
Research: Particle Physics
Personal Web site: Research Web Site

Grad Students

Mehrens, Hunter
Joseph Meyers



I am interested in learning how quarks and gluons build the universe. Quarks are the most basic bits of matter which form all other massive particles such as protons, neutrons, pions, and many others (electrons and neutrinos are not made of quarks).  Gluons are the carriers of the force which acts between quarks (much the same as photons are the carriers of the electromagnetic force). The whole thing is described by a quantum field theory called Quantum Chromodynamics, or QCD for short. Although it is easy to describe QCD (the whole theory can be written on one line), it embodies many fascinating phenomena. These include color confinement, asymptotic freedom, spontaneous chiral symmetry breaking, important topological features, the quark–gluon plasma phase transition, and the emergence of an entirely new class of matter made of gluons (like atoms made of pure light!). QCD is also widely applicable. It is used in nuclear physics (how the nuclei of atoms are formed and behave), astrophysics (the formation of neutron and quark stars), cosmology (the very early universe is thought to have been a quark–gluon plasma), and hadronic physics (the physics of protons, pions, etc). You can find a pedagogical introduction to particle physics here and an introduction to QCD in an article I wrote for American Scientist. My research concentrates on describing the structure and interactions of hadrons –– those particles which are made of quarks and gluons. I am especially interested in exotics, particles made in whole or in part by gluons. There is an active effort to discover these particles around the world. I am a member of a new $30 million experimental effort being mounted at Jefferson Lab in Virginia. Gluons are an especially interesting part of QCD because their peculiar properties are thought to underlie many of the interesting phenomena I mentioned above. Understanding QCD means understanding its vacuum. Some of my current research involves using a numerical method called lattice gauge theory to probe different aspects of the QCD vacuum. My students and I are also examining the application of the Schwinger-Dyson formalism to nonperturbative properties of quantum field theory.


  • "Confinement Models at Finite Temperature and Density", Pok Man Lo and  E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D81, 034030 (2010).
  • "Hadron loops: General theorems and application to charmonium", T. Barnes and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. C77, 055206 (2008).
  • "A Canonical Ds(2317)?", O. Lakhina and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Lett. B650, 159 (2007).
  • "The New Heavy Mesons: a Status Report", E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rept. 429, 243 (2006).
  • "Higher Charmonia," T. Barnes, S. Godfrey, and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D72, 054026 (2005).
  • "Short Range Structure in the X(3872)," E.S. Swanson, Phys. Lett. B588, 189 (2004).
  • "Coulomb Gauge QCD, Confinement, and the Constituent Representation," A. Szczepaniak and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D65, 025012 (2002).
  • "Chiral Extrapolation, Renormalization, and the Viability of the Quark Model," A. Szczepaniak and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 072001 (2001).
  • "One the Excitation Spectrum of Heisenberg Spin Ladders," T. Barnes, E. Dagotto, J. Riera, and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. B47, 3196 (1993).

recent publications


Guest Appearances

Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Pittsburgh
100 Allen Hall
3941 O'Hara St
Pittsburgh PA 15260
O: (412) 624-9000 | F: (412) 624-9163

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