The University of Southampton

Hundreds gather to see Astronomer Royal launch pioneering new research centre

Published: 14 November 2013

Hundreds of people gathered at the University of Southampton to celebrate the launch of the new pioneering Southampton Theory Astrophysics and Gravity (STAG) Research Centre.

The Centre aims to improve our understanding of the Universe and the fundamental laws of nature by bringing together world-leading academics from three research groups – Theoretical Particle Physics, Astronomy, and General Relativity.

Guest of honour at the recent launch event was Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees who has a long and prestigious career in the field of astronomy and was President of the Royal Society from 2005 to 2010. His inspiring keynote lecture explored the cosmic history and the key parameters of our Universe and explained how these are being pinned down by experimental data, especially that from the European Space Agency’s Planck Spacecraft. To see his talk watch the video here.

Guests were welcomed by the Provost Professor Adam Wheeler, who explained the importance and necessity of scientists from the different research groups working together to uncover the next layer of fundamental physics.

University Pro Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Philip Nelson, Dean of Physical Sciences and Engineering Professor Dame Wendy Hall, and Dean of Social and Human Sciences Professor Judith Petts joined the audience of local school and college students, University staff and students, and members of the public at the special event in the Turner Sims Concert Hall.

They also heard from STAG postgraduate students who gave talks about their work.

STAG Director Professor Chris Sachrajda said: “Our recent launch of the STAG Research Centre was a very memorable and significant occasion. We were honoured to have such an esteemed key note speaker in Lord Martin Rees who captivated the audience with his lecture. We hope this will be the first in a series of high profile research seminars organised by STAG.”

The STAG Research Centre has been formed to explore problems ranging from the ultimate building blocks of matter, to dynamics over the longest distances in the Universe. Researchers will work together to:

• improve our understanding of the extreme environments generated by black holes and neutron stars that power some of the most spectacular phenomena in the Universe such as pulsars • explore the identity of dark matter and dark energy that make up 95 per cent of the Universe • bridge the gap between quantum theory and gravity by exploiting their expertise in string theory and holography – a technique that enables 3D images to be made

To find out more about the STAG Research centre visit

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