The UK theoretical physics community has been awarded more than £20 million to expand and test theories of how the Universe works.

UK theoretical particle physicists have a long history of global leadership, including Nobel Prize winners, and continues to lead the world in areas such as dark matter theory.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has awarded the grants to researchers looking at 5 key theme areas in theoretical physics:

  • cosmology: the theory we use to try to describe the earliest moments of the Universe and how the Universe evolved
  • lattice field theory: this is about testing the limits of the Standard Model by ascertaining, for example, the physical masses of particles and testing how they hold up against the Standard Model
  • phenomenology: the study of elementary building blocks of all matter in the Universe and the fundamental forces that operate between them
  • quantum field theory: a theoretical framework that combines lots of principles to explain the behaviours of subatomic particles and their interactions
  • string theory: the study of how particles interact, supposing that particles are not ‘points’ but more like one-dimensional strings

Head of Particle Physics Programme in STFC, Karen Clifford, said:

Theorists are crucial to the UK’s entire science base, not just to our understanding of the Universe. They play a vital role in the promotion of science, helping to inspire the next generation of researchers.

Theoretical physicists also play a crucial role in teaching in maths and physics departments with their breadth of knowledge and ability to clearly explain complex subjects.

With this funding, we hope to continue the UK’s global leadership in this area.

The 25 institutions set to benefit from the 3-year grant funding are:

  • University of Cambridge
  • City, University of London
  • Institute of Particle Physics Phenomenology, Durham University
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Glasgow
  • Imperial College London
  • King’s College London
  • University of Liverpool
  • The University of Manchester
  • Newcastle University
  • The University of Nottingham
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Plymouth
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Surrey
  • Swansea University
  • University College London
  • Durham University and Newcastle University consortium
  • The University of Sheffield and Lancaster University consortium
  • University of Sussex consortium
  • University College London, Deppisch consortium

Source: UK Research and Innovation.

Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They bring together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. For more details go to:


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