Professor James Wells was recently elected as a 2019 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, "for distinguished contributions to the field of particle physics, particularly in regard to extensions of the Standard Model including supersymmetry or extra dimensions."
Professor Wells and his research group focus on what is called "beyond the Standard Model" physics. The Standard Model is the current theory describing fundamental particles, like electrons and quarks, and their interactions. However, this theory may not provide a full picture of our universe. Professor Wells’s group works on identifying deficiencies in the Standard Model, and from there, they propose theoretical solutions and experimental tests for their ideas.
One specific topic Professor Wells’s group studies is the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson was discovered in 2012, despite opposition by some to the idea that it really exists. However, its properties are not measured precisely, and there is significant room for the Higgs boson to not be exactly the kind of particle that fits into the Standard Model. The many ways the Higgs boson could deviate from the standard expectations are being characterized in Professor Wells's group, and ideas are being developed for how experiments could test the theoretical assumptions behind the Higgs boson.
Professor Wells's group has also worked recently on the asymmetry between matter and antimatter. Each normal particle has an antiparticle with opposite properties. For example, the antiparticle of an electron is a positron, and it has the same mass as an electron but has positive charge. The Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter, but the universe is made up entirely of matter. Standard cosmological and particle physics scenarios do not have an easy answer for why that is the case. Professor Wells’s group has worked on constructing the simplest theory possible that could give rise to matter over antimatter in the early universe. They have demonstrated that their proposed theory could be manifested in neutrons. In this theory, the neutron would spontaneously oscillate into an antineutron. The rate at which this would occur is so small that it would never be noticed except through dedicated experiments. The Wells group has proposed that the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund, Sweden would be an ideal experimental facility to test this idea, and in general any other ideas that lead to neutrons oscillating into antineutrons.