A big bang in Nottingham's Particle Theory Group

   
   
Supernovaecluster
18 Nov 2011 15:00:00.000

PA359/11                                               Image credit: NASA/CXC/SAO

The University of Nottingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy is celebrating a bumper crop of top new research brains in its Particle Theory Group after receiving a major new grant and an unprecedented number of postdoctoral researchers on fellowships from around the world.

The £442,000 grant from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, held jointly with the Quantum Gravity Group in the School of Mathematical Sciences, is for pioneering work on the cosmology of the early and late universe.

As well as securing the STFC funding for the next three years, the Particle Theory Group is bucking the trend in the current funding climate and has successfully applied for four new postdoctoral fellowships from the Royal Astronomical Society, European Union, Leverhulme Trust and a University of Nottingham Fellowship.

Click here for full story

Head of the group, Professor Ed Copeland, has also won a two-year Leverhulme Research Fellowship to further his research into cosmic superstrings and particle physics-inspired models of dark energy. Professor Copeland said:

“Cosmic superstrings are objects that could have formed just moments after the Big Bang which brought the universe into existence. Too thin to be seen with most telescopes, the fact that the core of the strings harness the huge energies associated with the big bang means they can still affect matter surrounding them today in a way that we might be able to observe.

"One particular route that the group is exploring is through the distinct signatures they leave on the radiation present from the Big Bang. This cosmic microwave background radiation is currently being detected by a number of high precision satellites including PLANCK. A goal of the project is to provide predictions for the unique form this signature should take from the strings, so that should it be seen it will be the first indirect evidence for string theory in nature. The first PDRA appointed to the grant is Dr. Dimitri Skliros from Sussex who will be working in this area of string theory.”

The research team will also be testing whether Einstein's theory of General Relativity is really the correct theory to explain the large scale features of our Universe. The 2011 Nobel Prize for physics was awarded for work which showed that the Universe is accelerating with distant galaxies moving apart from each other with ever increasing velocities. Although such a result can be explained in General Relativity by the introduction of a form of energy known as the cosmological constant, it is very difficult to explain why the constant has the small value it seems to have -- it should be much larger.

An alternative point of view is to let gravity do the work, and modify Einstein's original theory slightly to allow for such accelerations. The group intends to do just that and see whether there are more natural explanations coming from modifying gravity.  As well as securing the STFC funding for the next three years, the Particle Theory Group is bucking the trend in the current funding climate and has successfully applied for four new postdoctoral fellowships from the Royal Astronomical Society, European Union, Leverhulme Trust and a University of Nottingham Fellowship. 

Dr Adam Christopherson from Queen Mary, University of London, has taken up the Sir Norman Lockyer Fellowship funded by the Royal Astronomical Society. Dr Anastasios Avgoustidis from Cambridge University has a Marie Curie Fellowship for early universe research. Dr Clare Burrage joins the group from the University of Geneva on a University of Nottingham Anne McLaren Fellowship. A fourth new Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust has been awarded to Dr Mattia Fornasa of the University of Granada to work with Dr Anne Green in the Particle Theory Group on creating and constraining models of dark matter.

In January the Group will welcome another lecturer, Dr Adam Moss from the University of British Columbia in Canada. Dr Moss has been appointed via the Midlands Physics Alliance Graduate School scheme run jointly with the universities of Birmingham and Warwick. He will be working on understanding the nature of the primordial radiation from the early universe (cosmic microwave background) and is a member of the PLANCK satellite consortium currently measuring this radiation.

On behalf of the group, Professor Ed Copeland said: “The fact that we have been able to attract significant STFC funding and so many talented individuals from around the world on these fellowships is testament to the impact the group is making in particle cosmology, and bodes well for the future. In such a difficult climate, we have to keep alert to the various funding opportunities, and we intend to do just that.''

                                                 — Ends —

 

For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/UoNPressOffice 

 Notes to editors:  The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia. Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. For more details, visit:  www.nottingham.ac.uk/impactcampaign

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at: www.nottingham.ac.uk/news 

Story credits

More information from: Professor Ed Copeland on +44 (0)115 951 5164 Edmund.Copeland@nottingham.ac.uk
EmmaRayner2

Emma Rayner - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

Additional resources

No additional resources for this article

Related articles

Tiny test tubes and getting to grips with quantum gravity

Published Date
Wednesday 31st August 2011

Astronomers discover Universe's most distant quasar

Published Date
Wednesday 29th June 2011

Imprisoned molecules 'quantum rattle' in their cages

Published Date
Monday 20th August 2012

A meeting place for science and business

Published Date
Tuesday 31st May 2011

New weapon in fight against cancer

Published Date
Wednesday 27th April 2011

Bridging the science communication gap

Published Date
Thursday 17th February 2011

Take-off for centre of excellence in aerospace

Published Date
Thursday 9th December 2010

Close up on hidden galaxies with new cosmic zoom lenses

Published Date
Friday 5th November 2010

'Sixty Symbols' — unravelling the secret language of science

Published Date
Wednesday 22nd April 2009

A sonic boom in the world of lasers

Published Date
Wednesday 17th June 2009

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798
email: communications@nottingham.ac.uk