The Ogden Centre
"The Ogden Centre is a world-class centre for research into the fundamental mysteries of modern science, from the properties of the smallest elementary particles to the structure of our Universe as a whole."
Professor Carlos Frenk, Ogden Professor, Director ICC
The Ogden Centre for fundamental Physics at Durham University is a centre of excellence in fundamental physics research at the University of Durham. Opened in Autumn 2002, the Centre combines research into the building blocks of the universe, with a mission to inspire a new generation of young scientists. Its aims reflect the interests of Peter Ogden, the principal private donor who was inspired by his own physics teacher at school to read the subject at Durham University.
The Centre has three main functions. It provides state-of-the-art accommodation for two scientific teams, each working at the forefront of research at opposite ends of the known physical scale. At one extreme, the Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) probes the past, present and possible future development of the universe. At the other, the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (IP3), deals with the sub-atomic world of electrons and quarks. The Centre's third role is to draw on current research to develop new teaching materials for schools, and stimulate young people to aspire to be the scientists of tomorrow.
In 2014, Sir Peter made a £3.35m donation towards the redevelopment of the Ogden Centre. A new building is needed because of the Institutes’ rapid growth and academic success; it will enable them to maintain their leading global positions in the decades ahead. The unique design of the proposed building will reflect the international standing of the two research institutes, giving a clear and recognisable identity in the context of Durham's architectural heritage.
Work of the Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC)
The ICC research programme encompasses all aspects of cosmogony, from the birth of the first objects in the universe to the physics of galaxy formation. Its long-term goals are to understand the origin of structure in the universe, to establish the identity and properties of dark matter and to relate theoretical predictions to astronomical observations.
The engine room of the ICC is the £1.4 million 'Cosmology Machine', one of the most powerful supercomputers in academic research in Britain and one of the fastest in Europe. As ICC's Director, Professor Carlos Frenk explains: "The ICC is the UK base for Virgo Consortium, a network involving around 25 researchers in Britain, Germany, Canada and the USA. We are looking for answers to how the universe began and continues to develop. We test theories about the formation of objects, from primordial hydrogen gas clouds to great clusters of galaxies, and use its supercomputer to run simulations of how the universe would have developed according to a particular theory. If a video universe we create resembles the observed universe around us, that indicates the theory is well-founded.
The Ogden building is already proving to be a magnet for distinguished physicists worldwide who visit the Centre to collaborate with our researchers." Work of the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (IP3)
One of IP3's main goals is to provide a forum for interaction between UK particle physics theorists and
experimentalists. IP3's Director, Professor James Stirling, explains: "Particle Physics Phenomenology is the bridge between theory and experiment in the study of the building blocks of matter in the Universe - the fundamental particles - and how they interact through the fundamental forces. Phenomenologists play the dual role of revealing aspects of theory that can be tested by experiment, while at the same time helping their experimental colleagues to see the implications of their measurements in the search for new fundamental laws."
Public Understanding of Science and Technology Programme
Also based in the Ogden Centre, this public outreach project aims to promote astronomy and particle physics in the North of England, with secondary schools as its primary target. It builds upon the work of the Ogden Centre and the UK Dark Matter Collaboration near Whitby. The programme includes the development of innovative teaching packs, school visits and teacher support sessions, as well as masterclasses and practical activity, including the use of telescopes and computers.