Particle Physics and Nuclear Physics

The discovery of the Higgs boson, which gives mass to fundamental particles – was one of the biggest discoveries in physics in half a century. Our pioneering research helped to track it down.


The identification of this tiny particle, predicted by Peter Higgs in 1964, has revolutionised the way we think about the fundamental mechanisms at work in the universe.

This mind-blowing work used the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s biggest and highest-energy particle accelerator, at CERN – the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research. Our elementary particle physics and nuclear physics groups are involved in as many LHC experiments (ATLAS, ALICE and LHCb) as any institute in the UK, as well as another headline CERN experiment, NA62.

As part of the ATLAS experiment – a collaboration of nearly 3,000 scientists – our physicists performed some of the key analysis that resulted in the discovery of the Higgs boson in ultra-high energy proton-proton collisions at the LHC.

We are now busy testing our standard model theory against the measured Higgs’ properties and looking for signs of even more exotic physics.

All these experiments require human endeavour at the cutting-edge – the extremes of energy, precision and technology. We are world leaders in the design and construction of the state-of-the-art electronics that are needed to identify the most interesting collisions at the LHC within two-millionths of a second.

Further Impact:

  • We have been involved in the discovery of the quark-gluon plasma, which will help us to understand how the universe came to be the way we see it today and also gives us an insight into the structure of matter within the cores of neutron stars
  • Our research programme is pushing the frontiers of instrumentation and radiation detection. The advances we’ve made have potential for producing sensors that function in high temperature environments, such as aircraft engines
  • Through precise measurements of particles containing ‘beauty’ quarks at the LHCb experiment and strange quarks at the NA62 experiment, we are trying to understand why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe: after the Big Bang, there should have been equal amounts, so where did all the antimatter go?