University of Sheffield physicists have been given more than £2.6 million to investigate basic issues about the composition of the Universe.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) award of £2.68 million is part of a larger £60 million commitment to maintain the UK at the forefront of global particle physics research and to assist the next generation of particle physicists.

Particle physics is the study of the universe at the smallest conceivable sizes and the greatest feasible energies, with the goal of finding answers to basic questions concerning the structure of matter and the composition of the Universe.

Professor Lee Thompson of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield will lead the institute’s particle physics program, which will seek to answer basic problems such as:

“What and why is the Universe comprised of?”

“Why is the Universe composed of matter rather than anti-matter?”

Searches for dark matter, a hypothetical kind of substance estimated to account for around 85 percent (five-sixths) of the stuff in the universe, are among the activities of the particle physics group. Despite the fact that it was found in 1933, it has never been directly witnessed.

In other news, the Sheffield team is taking part in the massive, multi-purpose ATLAS experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider to look for new particles. Other members of the team work on next-generation neutrino experiments in Japan and the United States to detect small variations between particles and antiparticles.

“This money will have a huge influence on our attempts to solve some of the most critical and basic questions about the Universe,” said Professor Lee Thompson, Principal Investigator for Sheffield from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

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“We are collaborating with colleagues all across the world on a broad variety of groundbreaking studies to help us better understand the nature of matter and uncover the elusive dark matter.” The STFC money will enable us to continue our innovative work here in Sheffield, bringing us one step closer to addressing some of science’s most difficult and complicated issues.”

Over the next three years, the STFC funding will finance teams from 18 UK institutions to conduct world-leading particle physics research.

“STFC continues to help the experimental particle physics community in the UK in solving basic questions about our Universe,” stated Professor Grahame Blair, STFC Executive Director for Programmes.

“The awards are critical in assisting technicians, engineers, and academics in developing their skills and experience in the sector, while also fostering career growth in basic research with both institutions and foreign colleagues.”

“This funding strengthens the UK physics community and allows the UK to maintain its leadership in experimental particle physics.”

STFC supports particle physicists from the United Kingdom who are working on a broad variety of experiments across the world. Researchers are tackling ground-breaking difficulties in particle physics, such as the hunt for dark matter, the study of neutrino oscillations, and the search for proton decay — all of which are major topics in basic physics for which we still don’t have solutions.

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