Institutes & Centers

Through various research institutes, centers, and other connections, Physics Department collaborations involve thousands of scientists around the world. On this page, we list only the larger institutes and centers that are either headquartered on the University of Chicago campus, run or managed by Physics Department faculty, or involve Department faculty in very significant ways.

On-Campus Institutes & Centers

Enrico Fermi Institute (EFI)

The Enrico Fermi Institute is an academic unit of the University devoted to interdisciplinary research. It was founded shortly after the Second World War as the "Institute for Nuclear Studies" and is now named in honor of Enrico Fermi, who was one of the founders and a distinguished member of the Institute. All faculty members in the Institute hold joint appointments in one or more of the following departments: Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Geophysical Sciences, and Mathematics. Graduate students and postgraduate associates working with these faculty members also hold appointments and perform their research in the Institute. The experimental disciplines currently being pursued include: high-energy particle physics, high-energy astrophysics, studies of particles and fields in the solar system and in space, infrared and optical astronomy, nuclear cosmo-chemistry, geochemistry, scanning electron and proton microscopy, and solar energy concentration. Theoretical studies include elementary particles, quantum field theory, theoretical astrophysics and solar physics, plasma physics, cosmology, and general relativity.

James Franck Institute (JFI)

The James Franck Institute is the premier institute in the U.S. for interdisciplinary research at the intersection of physics, chemistry and materials science. The Institute is home to scientists from condensed matter physics, physical and materials chemistry, atomic, molecular and optical physics, and biophysics. Several of its faculty members are affiliated with departments such as computer science, geophysics, mathematics, and with other research institutes on campus or with nearby Argonne National Laboratory. High-profile experimental and theoretical research in the Institute covers the areas of nanoscience, chemical kinetics and dynamics, phase transitions and far-from-equilibrium phenomena, dynamical systems, materials behavior under extreme deformations, low-temperature transport phenomena and superconductivity, ultracold atomic matter, molecular beams, laser spectroscopy, surface phenomena, polymer chemistry and physics, and biophysics.

Institute for Biophysical Dynamics (IBD)

The University of Chicago has established the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics to meet the challenges of understanding the structure, diversity, and function of biological entities at the molecular level. To do this, the Institute applies a new approach to scientific research at the interface between biology and the physical sciences. It brings together experimentalists, theoreticians, and computational scientists to forge a scientific culture of fluid exchange of ideas and collaboration across disciplines and among laboratories. In addition, the Institute establishes training programs to involve undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students in this new cross-disciplinary approach to science. This culture of interdisciplinary research will provide paths for insights developed at the laboratory bench to profoundly influence endeavors as diverse as molecular-based computing and the treatment of illness at the bedside. And finally, it facilitates exchanges among researchers in Industry, Argonne National Laboratory, and the University of Chicago.

Computation Institute (CI)

The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory established the Computation Institute in 2000 to address the most challenging problems arising in the use of strategic computation and communications. Its establishment was motivated by the tremendous opportunities inherent in new approaches to research based on the large-scale application of computation, data, and communications, and the strategic importance to the University and Argonne of developing the capabilities required to exploit those opportunities. More than 70 Chicago faculty and Argonne scientists have been appointed as fellows and 30 full-time professional staff employed. Many high-profile and high-impact projects have been established, such as Open Science Grid, TeraGrid, Globus, the National Microbial Pathogen Research Center, the Social Informatics Data Grid, and the Chicago Biomedical Consortium.

Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP)

The Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics is committed to the development of innovative approaches that combine both physics and astronomy that exploits the connections between physics at the smallest scales and the birth and constitution of the cosmos. The KICP was founded in August 2001 as one of the National Science Foundation's Physics Frontier Centers. A generous endowment from the Kavli Foundation has made this research institute a permanent entity at the University of Chicago. There are three profound questions that form the primary scientific focus of the Institute: (1) What is the nature of dark energy and what is its impact on the evolution of the Universe? (2) Was there an inflationary epoch in the first moments of the Universe, and if so, what is the underlying physics that caused it? (3) What clues do nature's highest energy particles offer about the unification of forces?

Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC)

The Chicago Materials Research Center addresses fundamental scientific problems of technological significance which require an approach that transcends traditional disciplines. We are funded by the National Science Foundation as one of their Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC). This center employs a concept-driven approach that involves collaborations between experimentalists, theorists, and computational scientists from six departments at the University of Chicago and synergistic cooperation with scientists from industry and national laboratories.

ASC Center for Astrophysical Thermonuclear Flashes (ASC/Flash)

The ASC/Alliances Center for Astrophysical Thermonuclear Flashes aims to solve the long-standing problem of thermonuclear flashes on the surfaces of compact stars such as neutron stars and white dwarf stars, and in the interior of white dwarfs (i.e., Type Ia supernovae). It's scientists study the physics of exploding stars and the nuclear detonations that occur when matter in space is crushed by gravity onto the surfaces of extremely dense stars. Exploding stars, or supernovae, emit ten billion times more power than the sun, and shine as brightly as an entire galaxy of stars. The Center is based at the University of Chicago, and involves collaboration between faculty and staff from several departments and institutes, Argonne National Laboratory, and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The center also collaborates with a number of individual scientists at other institutions.

Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME)

Newly established in 2010, the Institute for Molecular Engineering is the largest new academic program the university has started since the founding of Harris School of Public Policy in 1988. With renowned scientists from around the world, the Institute conducts research at the intersection of chemical, electrical, mechanical, and biological engineering as well as materials, biological, and physical sciences. The institute's work exploring cutting-edge technologies in nanoscale manipulation and design at a molecular scale has the potential for innovation with societal impact in such areas as the environmental sustainability, health care, and information technology of the future.

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Consortium for Nanoscience Research (CNR)

The mission of the UC-ANL Consortium for Nanoscience Research is to provide a focal point for fundamental, interdisciplinary research at the intersection of biology, chemistry, materials science, and physics. The Consortium focuses on nanoscience research at the two institutions, fosters cross-cutting interactions between traditionally separate disciplines such as the physical and biological sciences, and acts as incubator for synergistic, non-traditional approaches to nanofabrication.

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Off-Campus Institutes & Centers

Argonne National Laboratory (ANL)

Argonne National Laboratory is managed by the University of Chicago and is one of the U. S. Department of Energy's largest research centers. It is also the nation's first national laboratory. Argonne occupies 1,500 wooded acres about 25 miles southwest of Chicago's Loop near Darien, IL.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL)

Commonly known as Fermilab, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is a government-funded research facility jointly managed by the University of Chicago and the Universities Research Association (URA). Located in Batavia, IL, Fermilab's mission is to advance the understanding of the fundamental nature of matter and energy by providing leadership and resources for basic research at the frontiers of high-energy physics and related disciplines.

European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)

CERN is one of the world’s largest and most respected centers for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

Pierre Auger Observatory

The Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory is studying the universe's highest energy particles, which shower down on Earth in the form of cosmic rays. While cosmic rays with low to moderate energies are well understood, those with extremely high energies remain mysterious. By detecting and studying these rare particles, the Auger Observatory is tackling the enigmas of their origin and existence. To do this, the Auger has created a detection area in western Argentina's Mendoza Province that is the size of the state of Rhode Island. This project was first proposed in 1992 by Jim Cronin and Alan Watson. Today, more than 280 physicists from more than 70 institutions around the world are collaborating to build the southern site.

Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (CARA)

CARA was formed in 1991 with the mission to establish and operate an astrophysical observatory at the South Pole to investigate the origins of structure in the Universe. The center pursues a set of research projects which exploit the cold, dry and stable conditions which make the Antarctic Plateau the best site on Earth for observations at infrared and sub millimeter wavelengths. CARA is a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center headquartered at the University of Chicago; the full collaboration now involves nearly 30 institutions.

Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC)

The Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC) is a joint project between KEK and JAEA (the two national laboratories in Japan) and is located next to the city of Tokai. J-PARC aims to pursue frontier science in particle physics, nuclear physics, materials science, life science and nuclear technology, using a new proton accelerator complex at the highest beam power in the world. Those high intensity proton beams lead to a high intensity secondary beams, such as neutron, meson, and neutrino beams.

Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA)

The Physics Frontier Center JINA (Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics) at the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Notre Dame, and Michigan State University provides an intellectual center with the goal to enable swift communication and stimulating collaborations across field boundaries and at the same time provide a focus point in the rapidly growing and diversifying field of nuclear astrophysics. JINA fosters interdisciplinary collaborations, workshops, research programs, and educational initiatives at its participating institutions as well as within the field of nuclear astrophysics at large.

Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM)

The Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory is a joint partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the State of Illinois. The CNM serves as a user-based center, providing tools and infrastructure for nanoscience and nanotechnology research. The CNM's mission includes supporting basic research and the development of advanced instrumentation that will help generate new scientific insights and create new materials with novel properties. The challenges the CNM faces involve fabricating and exploring novel nanoscale materials and, ultimately, employing unique synthesis and characterization methods to control and tailor nanoscale phenomena.

Joint Theory Institute (JTI)

The Joint Theory Institute is a multi-disciplinary research institution jointly supported at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory to enhance collaborative research between both institutions in the broad area of theory. The JTI promotes new opportunities for close interactions among U of C and ANL researchers that advance theory and the integration of these advances into the scientific activity at both institutions. To accomplish its goals, the JTI will sponsor visitor programs, workshops, and research projects at the forefront of theory that facilitate interactions and initiates collaborations between the U of C and ANL staff.

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