University of Sheffield: University of Sheffield researchers awarded over £2.6 million to support particle physics research

Physicists at the University of Sheffield have been awarded more than £2.6 million to address fundamental questions on the composition of the Universe.

The £2.68 million grant, from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), is part of a wider £60 million investment to keep the UK at the forefront of global particle physics research, and to support the next generation of particle physicists.

Particle physics is the study of the world at both the smallest possible scales and the highest achievable energies, seeking answers to fundamental questions about the structure of matter and the composition of the Universe.

Professor Lee Thompson, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, will lead the institute’s particle physics programme, which aims to address fundamental questions such as:

“What is the Universe made of and why?”
“Why is the Universe made of matter and not anti-matter?”
Amongst the particle physics group’s activities are searches for dark matter – a hypothetical form of matter thought to account for approximately 85 per cent (five-sixths) of the matter in the universe. Despite first being discovered in 1933, it has still never been directly observed.

Elsewhere, the team at Sheffield are participating in the large, multi-purpose ATLAS experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider to search for new particles. Other team members collaborate on next-generation neutrino experiments in Japan and the US to observe subtle differences between particles and antiparticles.

Professor Lee Thompson, Principal Investigator for Sheffield from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “This funding will have a significant impact on our efforts to answer some of the most important and fundamental questions about the Universe.”

“We are working in collaboration with colleagues across the globe on a wide range of pioneering experiments to help us better understand the nature of matter and to discover the so-far elusive dark matter. The STFC funding will allow us to continue our groundbreaking work here in Sheffield and move us one step closer to answering some of the biggest and most complex questions in science.”

The STFC investment will fund teams from 18 UK universities in total, to carry out world-leading particle physics research over the next three years.

Professor Grahame Blair, STFC Executive Director for Programmes, said: “STFC continues to support the experimental particle physics community in the UK in answering fundamental questions about our Universe.

“The grants are vital in supporting technicians, engineers and academics in their skills and expertise in the field, all while encouraging career development in fundamental research with both universities and international collaborators.

“This investment underpins the UK physics community and enables continued UK leadership in the field of experimental particle physics.”

STFC funds UK particle physicists working on a wide range of experiments globally. Research teams are working on solving groundbreaking challenges in particle physics, including the race to detect dark matter, the investigation of neutrino oscillations and the search for proton decay – all key questions in fundamental physics which we still do not have answers to.

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