Announcing the new Center for the Fundamental Physics of the Universe (CFPU)

cfpu connection diagramThe new Center for the Fundamental Physics of the Universe (CFPU) at Brown brings together researchers engaged in experimental and theoretical work aimed at answering some of the major fundamental questions about the physics of the Universe.

The roster includes faculty from various sub-disciplines: four from Astrophysics and Cosmology Experimental work (Dell’Antonio, Gaitskell, Pober, Tucker), three pursuing Astrophysics and Cosmology Theory and Phenomenology (Alexander,  Fan, Koushiappas) and four High Energy Experimentalists (Cutts, Heintz, Landsberg, Narain). We are also working in conjunction with Faculty from Condensed Matter research and also Planetary Sciences.  

We have a strong group of theorists working on problems relevant to astroparticle cosmology. As illustrated in the figure the theoretical work spans new models from the very earliest  times addressing the inflationary phase at the start of the universe, through models of dark matter and dark energy controlling the evolution of the universe as important features at multiple distance scales are forming, to models addressing the potential production of dark matter at present-day particle accelerators. One of our major goals is to identify and develop new cross-disciplinary techniques for future experimental searches to better understand the dark matter and dark energy. We are encouraging full exploitation of the breadth and depth of the expertise at Brown to develop new experimental techniques, as well as new interpretations of the implications of current experimental data. 

The CFPU will also significantly aid recruitment of junior researchers by further raising the profile of our very successful Particle, Astrophysics and Cosmological research programs for the potential new graduate students and postdocs. We must ensure that young researchers share the excitement of the Center’s wide range of interconnected physics activities – attracting the very best researchers is critical to our efforts. The CFPU is providing funding to kick-start new research ideas spanning multiple faculty. The CFPU can also fulfill an important role by acting to coordinate future applications for large-scale funding in block grants/science centers programs. 

In our initial start-up we have already been able to provide support for conferences and meetings covering dark matter direct detection (IDM2018), particle detector instrumentation development (CPAD2018) and the Murchison Widefield Array 21-cm signal experiment. We have also supported a new dark matter search proposal in Axion physics that exploits quantum-sensitive NMR techniques developed in the condensed matter research (Mitrovic) at the department. We identified and obtained funding from DOE to exploit deep neural network/machine learning to analyze research results coming from groups in dark matter lensing, dark matter direct detection and high energy accelerator particle searches. The Center is also sponsoring machine learning workshops for undergraduates and researchers at the department to ensure that a wide appreciation of what the new techniques can be used for most effectively. 

We will continue to explore new potential synergies between our areas of experimental research. Our research groups are developing and fabricating new detector technologies in related areas of advance photodetectors, low noise detectors, fast electronics and data acquisition systems. We face the challenge of handling large >PB data sets and use similar analysis techniques, so we are developing a plan to best support these efforts. The CFPU is already playing a critical role at the Physics department and we are very optimistic about exploiting future research opportunities that can be carried out at Brown with new resources.