Eric S. Swanson

  • Professor
404 Allen Hall
412 799 3663


I am interested in learning how quarks and gluons build the universe, especially how they form unusual combinations, called exotics. I am also passionate about science communication to the public. The former is exemplified in the research listed below, while the latter is shown in the op-eds, books, and articles listed, and in my consulting work.

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.


  • Fellow of the American Physical Society, 2010

Selected Publications

  • "The LHCb state P_psi(4338) as a triangle singularity", to appear, 2022.
  • "Production of Pc states in Lambdab decays", T.J. Burns and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D106, 054029 (2022)
  • "K-matrix analysis of e+e- annihilation in the bottomonium region", N. Hueskin, R.E. Mitchell, and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. 2022
  • "Discriminating among interpretations for the X(2900 states", T.J. Burns and E.S. Swanson, Phys.Rev.D 103, 014004 (2021)
  • "Kinematical cusp and resonance interpretations of the X(2900)", T.J. Burns and E.S. Swanson, Phys.Lett.B 813, 136057 (2021).
  • "Heavy hybrid decays in a constituent gluon model", C. Farina, H. Tecocoatzi, A. Giachino, E. Santopinto, Eric S. Swanson, Phys.Rev.D 102, 014023 (2020).
  • "Molecular Interpretation of the Pc(4440) and Pc(4457) States", T.J. Burns and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D100, 114033 (2019).
  • "Decays and Spectrum of Bottom and Bottom-strange Mesons", Ishrat Asghar, Bilal Masud, E.S. Swanson, Faisal Akram, M. Atif Sultan, Eur. Phys. J. A. 54, 127 (2018).
  • "Heavy-Quark Hybrid Mass Splittings: Hyperfine and Ultrafine", R.F. Lebed and E.S. Swanson, Few Body Syst. 59, 53 (2018).
  • "Quarkonium h States As Arbiters of Exoticity", R.F. Lebed and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D96, 056015 (2017).
  • "Heavy-Quark QCD Exotica", R.F. Lebed, R.E. Mitchell, and E.S. Swanson, PPNP 93C, 143 (2017).
  • "B and Bs Meson Spectroscopy", S. Godfrey, K. Moats, and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D94, 054025 (2016)
  • "Interpreting the X(5568)", T. Burns and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Lett. B760, 627 (2016).
  • "Issues and Opportunities in Exotic Hadrons", R. Briceno et al, Chin. Phys. C40, 042001 (2016).
  • "Cusps and Exotic Charmonia", E.S. Swanson, Int. J. Mod. Phys. E25, 1642010 (2015).
  • "Physics Opportunities with Meson Beams", W. Briscoe et al., Eur. Phys. J. A51, 129 (2015).
  • "Molecular Interpretation of the Supercharmonium State Z(4475), T. Barnes, F.E. Close, and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D91, 014004 (2015).
  • "Zb and Zc Exotic States as Coupled Channel Cusps", E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D91, 034009 (2015). 
  • "Hybrid Mesons", C. Meyer and E.S. Swanon, Prog. Part. Nucl. Phys. 82, 21 (2015)
  • "The Physics of the B Factories", Eur. Phys. J. C74, 3026 (2014)
  • "The Gluon Propagator with Two-loop Schwinger-Dyson Equations", J. Meyers and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D90, 045037 (2014)
  • 'Spin Zero Glueballs in the Bethe-Salpeter Formalism", J. Meyers and E.S. Swanson, Phys. Rev. D87, 036009 (2014).
  • "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


  • Applied Computational Physics, Joseph F. Boudreau and Eric S. Swanson, Oxford University Press (2018)
  • Science and Society, Eric S. Swanson, Springer (2016).


Guest Appearances