Durham University: Dr Ana Bonaca and Dr Danny van Dyk will be joining Durham University

We’ve benefited from a share of £5.7m in funding to support the next generation of science leaders to research the evolution of stars and the decay of subatomic particles.

The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council has awarded Ernest Rutherford Fellowships to early career researchers who have leadership potential in their chosen field.

The five-year funding allows talented researchers without an academic position to establish an independent research programme.

Two of the fellowships have been awarded to Dr Ana Bonaca and Dr Danny van Dyk at Durham.

Stellar streams

Ana’s work looks at what the Universe is made of and how it came to be.

Her goal is to measure the orbits of stars in our Milky Way and create matching theoretical models to learn where they come from and what they encountered on their journey.

She will calculate orbits for dozens of these stellar streams – groups of stars moving along similar orbits around our galaxy. By doing this she hopes to identify which of them are related, and build a family tree of our galaxy.

Ana will also look for signs of dark matter – believed to be the scaffolding for galaxy formation – by seeing where clumps of this mysterious material might have punched holes through the stellar streams.

Standard Model

Danny’s research aims to apply new mathematical methods he has developed to see if experimental data shows the effect of new fundamental forces beyond the Standard Model of particle physics.

Particle physicists and experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider are trying to explain shortcomings in the Standard Model which is scientists’ best theory to describe the basic building blocks of the universe.

Some of the possible explanations for these shortcomings involve new types of matter or new fundamental forces.

There have been tantalising hints that such effects change the decay of subatomic particles called beauty quarks into strange quarks.

Danny will focus on these very rare decays, which happen only once in every ten million beauty quark decays.

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