A brief history of the George P. and Cynthia W. Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy

The George P. and Cynthia W. Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy was founded in 2002 to support research that advances our understanding of how the Universe began and how it evolves. The Mitchell Institute is part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Science at Texas A&M University.

Made possible by a series of generous gifts from renowned Texas philanthropist George P. Mitchell and his wife, the late Cynthia Woods Mitchell, the Mitchell Institute unites three core knowledge areas: Astrophysics, High Energy Experiment, and High Energy Theory. The vibrant research programs spanning these core areas originate new theories, experiments, and observations that illuminate the fundamental structure and mechanics of the Universe. The Mitchell Institute fosters a creative environment for unraveling the mysteries of the Universe by studying the infinitesimally small to the infinitely vast.

The Mitchell Institute is equally dedicated to sharing knowledge and the excitement of discovery through an active education and outreach program, graduate training, conferences, workshops, and a Visitors’ program.

Our world-class research and teaching facilities are housed in two new state-of-the-art buildings on the Texas A&M campus. As of 2013, the Mitchell Institute has established 13 academic chairs and professorships, a post-doctoral fellowship program, several seminar series, and a Visitors’ program.

We regularly organize major international conferences and workshops that span a wide range of topics in High Energy Physics and Astronomy.

For more about the Mitchell Institute’s current programs, please contact us.

Historical Milestones

September 2002

The George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy is established with a gift bestowed by Cynthia Woods Mitchell and alumnus George P. Mitchell, Texas A&M (’40) distinguished petroleum engineering graduate and founder of Mitchell Energy & Development Corp. and The Woodlands.

March 2003

World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking visits campus to participate in the Institute’s inaugural meeting, along with other leading physicists and cosmologists. Hawking gives public lecture at Texas A&M entitled "Godel and the End of Physics," and a public lecture in the Woodlands at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell pavilion, entitled "Brane New World."

August 2004

The Mitchells provide a $1.75 million gift to establish Texas A&M as a partner in the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope project, a significant 10-member international collaboration. With a resolving power that is 10 times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Giant Magellan Telescope will be housed in Chile.

November 2005

The Mitchells pledge $35 million toward construction of the $82.5 million Mitchell Institute and George P. Mitchell ’40 Physics buildings — the first campus buildings to be financed through a public-private partnership involving substantial donor funds. Michael Graves & Associates design the two buildings with a combined 155,000 square feet of floor space for teaching and research.

May 2006

The groundbreaking ceremony for the $82.5 million Mitchell Institute and George P. Mitchell ’40 Physics buildings takes place.

August 2006

The Mitchell Institute and the Cambridge Centre for Theoretical Cosmology (CTC) announce a far-reaching research collaboration. Funded by an annual gift from George P. Mitchell and matched by Texas A&M University, the partnership hosts conferences and workshops in Cambridge and at Texas A&M, and exchange visits of faculty, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students. The inaugural conference on Time-Dependent Backgrounds in String and M-theory takes place in Cambridge, UK.

April 2007

Stephen Hawking presents "The Origin of the Universe" at Texas A&M in conjunction with the 2007 Mitchell Symposium on Astronomy, Cosmology and Fundamental Physics.

May 2007

Mitchell Institute initiated a major international conference “Interconnection between Particle Physics and Cosmology (PPC)” at TAMU. Since its inception this conference has been organized six times in last six years by different institutes¬† in America (2008, 2009 and 2013), Europe (2010, 2011) and Asia (2012).

December 2009

The George P. Mitchell ’40 Physics Building and the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy are officially dedicated.

April 2010

Stephen Hawking visits TAMU, attends the official inauguration ceremony for the new Mitchell Institute building, and gives a public lecture entitled "Out of a Black Hole."

April 2011

Stephen Hawking visits TAMU and gives a public lecture on "The Origin of the Universe."

May 2011

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Undergraduate Scholarship for Women in Physics at Texas A&M University is established by daughter Sheridan Mitchell Lorenz with contributions from several faculty in the Department of Physics & Astronomy.

May 2011

George P. Mitchell and The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation commit an unprecedented $25 million gift to the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project. Half of the gift, $12.5 million, is awarded to the Carnegie Institution for Science and half to Texas A&M University to support GMT over the next five years

June 2012

The George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy hosts the inaugural Mitchell Institute Physics Enhancement Program (MIPEP), providing intensive physics training for teachers from 13 school districts in Texas. The curriculum clarifies fundamental physics concepts through the introduction of course content, problem-solving and hands-on demonstrations.  

November 2012

A decade after making his first million-dollar gift intended to help transform Texas A&M University into a world leader in fundamental physics and astronomy, George P. Mitchell commits another $20 million endowment gift to enable a significant expansion in Institute activities.

Read More