Quality of Research
School of Physics and Astronomy
Research Assessment Exercise (2008)
|Unit of Assessment||Staff submitted (FTE)||By percentage, research activity in the submission judged to reach quality standard|
(Overall quality profile in blocks of 5%)
Research in the School of Physics and Astronomy is concerned both with understanding the fundamental laws of nature and developing practical applications. Activity is structured through research groups which provide academic staff with a supportive framework to develop their research and to participate in major collaborations. The groups are: Astronomy (sub-divided into Galaxies/Extragalactic and Star Formation), Astronomy Instrumentation; Gravitational Physics, Musical Acoustics, Nanophysics, and Photons and Matter.
Recent research highlights include the discovery of a candidate dark galaxy containing no stars, the delivery of flight hardware for the European Space Agency’s Herschel and Planck satellites, world-leading measurements of the polarisation properties of the cosmic microwave background radiation, analysis of data from gravitational wave detectors, a new concept of resonant acousto-optics, and advances in understanding the behaviour of charge carriers in quantum dots.
International collaborations are an important element of research in the School. For example, the Gravitational Physics group is one of the largest groups within the US-led Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory and one of two UK groups working on the GEO600 gravitational wave detector; and the Astronomy Instrumentation Group is recognised internationally as a world-leading group in its field and collaborates with many institutes in the UK, Europe, and the USA in the construction of state-of-the-art instruments for ground-based and space-borne infrared astronomy.
Research in the School is supported by significant investment from Cardiff University and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. Researchers have access to modern and well-equipped in-house laboratories and also use national and international facilities such as astronomical telescopes and light sources. New staff members have recently been recruited to enhance research on the physics of large molecules and on gravitational physics; the field of Astronomy has been further boosted by the appointment of a new Chair in Theoretical Astrophysics; and recruitment of a new Chair in Experimental Astrophysics is planned.
The School has a strong record of funding PhD studentships and its research groups offer an exceptionally wide range of opportunities to postgraduate students. Many of the PhD projects provide the opportunity for students to participate in high-profile international collaborations.
Research at the School aims to unlock the secrets of the Universe. The "Horsehead" nebula, a dense cloud of gas and dust – pictured above - has been studied by members of the Astronomy Group at submillimetre wavelengths (inset), discovering a dense core inside which may be on the verge of collapsing to form a star. Credit: NOAO/AURA/NSF; JCMT; Professor D. Ward Thompson, Cardiff University.