The mission of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy is to advance our understanding of how the Universe began and how it evolves for the benefit of science and humanity. The Mitchell Institute projects a unified front of research in its core knowledge areas by originating new theories, experiments and observations that illuminate the fundamental structure and mechanics of the universe.
By making tremendous strides toward measuring and quantifying the observable universe and delineating its history from the earliest times, cosmology has identified mysteries that can be resolved only through a synthesis of cosmology and particle physics. The Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy plays a unique role in understanding this interconnection between particle physics and cosmology by bringing together physicists and astronomers.
A key connection between Particle Physics and Cosmology arises from the latest astrophysical observations indicating that atoms only account for 4% of the present energy budget of the universe, while dark matter contributes 23% and the remaining 73% is called dark energy. Connecting Particle Physics and Cosmology is also necessary for understanding the observed rapid expansion of the early universe called inflation. Progress in developing the interconnection between particle physics and cosmology requires synergistic efforts from high energy theorists, cosmologists, astronomers and high energy experimentalists. New theoretical ideas that develop from this synergy open a new window into understanding the universe.
In the next ten years, we expect to see a revolution in cosmology and particle physics in the following major areas:
- Development of a profound theoretical understanding of inflation and the mysterious dark energy, and thus of the history of the universe from its inception to the present stage. The theoretical realization of the interconnection of particle physics and cosmology could emerge from the deep understanding of gravity, theories of interactions and model building involving fundamental interactions of nature from the ongoing and upcoming experimental results.
- Identification of particle nature of dark matter at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), with the Fermi gamma-ray space telescope, and through a host of current and next-generation direct detection experiments, (e.g., Xenon100, Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), CoGeNT, Large Underground Xenon (LUX) etc.)
- Precision measurements of the properties of dark energy, the geometry of space, the distribution of dark matter on the largest and smallest scales and the process of inflation by several large projects in the near future, e.g., the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX); the Dark Energy Survey (DES); the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST); the Planck microwave background satellite, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).
The Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy has a unique opportunity to become a world leader in these cutting edge areas of particle physics and cosmology. the Mitchell Institute’s synergistic mission is to harness the cooperation among the theorists, experimentalists, instrumentalists and observers to develop theoretical ideas, experimental techniques and plan future experiments in order to facilitate progress in fundamental physics and astronomy.
Major Goals of the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy
The two key goals of The Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy are:
- to further strengthen the world-class research endeavors of the The Mitchell Institute’s scientists by facilitating internal and external collaborations, and
- to enhance science education in the State of Texas.
Enhanced interactions among scientists within The Mitchell Institute and with the larger community will result in extraordinary progress not only in the cutting edge areas of interconnection between particle physics and cosmology but also will add to enormous national and international visibility for The Mitchell Institute. Many new ideas for understanding nature will emerge. These ideas could be in the form of new experimental techniques, observational strategies or theoretical breakthroughs of long standing problems. Interactions among theorists, experimentalists and observers will create unique collaboration possibilities among the Mitchell Institute members in the areas which can lead to breakthrough discoveries.