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Pioneering New Research Centre to Examine Beginnings of Universe

The University of Cambridge and the Kavli Foundation have announced their intention to establish a new institute to probe the beginnings of the cosmos at the University of Cambridge. Led by Professor George Efstathiou, the Kavli Institute for Cosmology will be supported by a multimillion dollar endowment from the Kavli Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge “for the benefit of humanity”.

The researchers of the new institute will seek to make major scientific advances in our knowledge and understanding of the universe, bringing together scientists from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, the Cavendish Laboratory (the Department of Physics) and the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.

“Cosmology is one of the most exciting frontiers of science,” said entrepreneur and philanthropist Fred Kavli, founder of the US-based Kavli Foundation. “It seeks to answer the deepest, most fundamental questions about the universe. Cambridge has such a stellar record of making fundamental discoveries in science throughout the ages and, with its traditions of excellence and leading-edge science teams, I have great hope that the Kavli Institute at Cambridge will make major discoveries in the future.”

The Institute will focus on the physics of the early Universe. Scientists believe that the universe was formed in a “Big Bang” many billions of years ago in a dense primordial soup of matter and energy and rapidly expanded thereafter. The physics of those first minutes after creation has been a subject of intense study and debate over the last few decades, and the Cambridge Institute will continue probing some of the big open questions in cosmology, such as how fast did the universe expand, and how did the first stars and galaxies evolve?

Cambridge has a long tradition of research in cosmology and astronomy, spanning Newton’s discovery of the law of gravitation over 300 years ago, to the discovery of pulsars and the development of the Big Bang model of the Universe in modern times. The new Institute will build on these foundations and enable theoretical, experimental and observational cosmologists to work together on ambitious new projects using state-of-the-art facilities, including giant telescopes and space satellites.

The Institute will form part of an international network of Kavli Foundation-funded research centres at other universities around the world, and will collaborate with its sister centres in China and the US. This is the first time that the Foundation, which was set up in 2000 by Fred Kavli, has established an institute in the United Kingdom.

Professor George Efstathiou, Director of Cambridge University’s Institute of Astronomy said: “Cosmology is one of the most exciting areas in science and it will be a privilege for us to host the new Kavli Institute for Cosmology at Cambridge. We are grateful to Fred Kavli, the Kavli Foundation, and the University of Cambridge for making this possible”.

Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society, Astronomer Royal and Master of Trinity College Cambridge, welcoming the announcement said: “Ideas on our cosmic origins have wide cultural resonance and the current fields of study in Cosmology are challenging 'growth areas' in fundamental science. To remain at the forefront of research requires the best instrumentation, the most powerful computers, and rigorous theoretical insight. The Kavli Foundation's generous support will enhance Cambridge's role in advancing understanding of this exciting subject”.

Academic staff will be seconded to the Kavli Institute from the three departments to work on flagship science projects of typically five years duration. It is anticipated that up to 50 academic staff will be involved. The Kavli endowment will be used to employ and support outstanding scientists early in their careers. These Kavli Institute Fellows will be given the freedom to develop their own independent research and take part in world-class projects.

The Institute will also work to promote the public understanding of science, by organising public lectures, scientific symposia and other outreach activities as appropriate in consultation with the Foundation.

Professor Alison Richard, Vice Chancellor said: "Cambridge is very pleased to be forging this new partnership with the Kavli Foundation. We applaud and appreciate Fred Kavli's determination to accelerate, through international collaboration, our understanding of the Universe, and we are delighted to join this endeavour".

Tom Kirk | alfa
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