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£3 million in funding awarded to Edinburgh particle researchers

ByGavin Dewar

Jan 18, 2016

Three million pounds have been awarded to the University of Edinburgh to support its contributions to major scientific projects across the world.

The funds, provided by the UK Government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, will assist Edinburgh researchers taking part in particle physics experiments at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), dark matter research at the Lux-Zeplin experiment in South Dakota, and an upcoming neutrino beams project in Japan.

The University of Edinburgh’s £3 million makes up one part of the wider £72 million to be distributed around 17 of the UK’s leading scientific universities over the next four years by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. A spokesperson from the council stated that the funding was aimed at tackling “unfinished business with understanding the universe”.

Professor John Womersley, particle physicist and Chief Executive at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, announced the new round of funding in December, saying, “The UK’s particle physicists are world leaders in expanding our understanding of some of the biggest and deepest questions in science.

“The support we are announcing today will enable this incredibly successful research community not only to analyse the new data coming from CERN but also to work on developing new applications for particle physics technology and to continue to inspire future generations with the excitement of discovering how the universe works.”

Professor Franz Muheim, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, called the funding “excellent news”.

He continued: “(CERN’s) Large Hadron Collider has successfully started operating again this year at almost twice the beam energy. Over the next few years, Edinburgh physicists are looking forward to recording and analysing even larger data samples with the ATLAS and LHCb experiments, to build a large dark matter detector – the Lux-Zeplin – to search for dark matter, and to design a future neutrino experiment – the Hyper-Kamiokande project.”

Muheim hopes that “this will allow us to shed light on three of the major unsolved questions about how nature works, namely the origin of mass, dark matter and the asymmetry between matter and antimatter.”

The £3 million funding will assist further research into the Higgs boson particle, which plays a central role in modern particle physics theory. The Higgs boson’s existence was confirmed in 2012 at CERN.

Peter Higgs, who received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to Higgs boson theory, is an emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh, intimately tying Edinburgh to ongoing cutting-edge particle physics research across the world. It is hoped that the £3 million funding will be directed towards strengthening these international ties.

The University’s Dr Victoria Martin expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of further support for Edinburgh’s international researchers. She said, “This funding is welcome news for the CERN Atlas experiment group in Edinburgh.

“By supporting our team of academics, researchers, engineers and technicians, we can take the next steps in investigating the Higgs boson particle, and in answering some outstanding mysteries of our universe, such as the existence of dark matter and how to incorporate the force of gravity into theories of quantum mechanics.”

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