Research

The PSD carries out fundamental research in both traditional, core areas as well as multidisciplinary ones, which may not have existed even a decade ago. Mathematics faculty, for example, are often working on solutions to extremely old problems using brand new methods. And in other departments, the boundaries of research are continually blurring, as, for example, chemistry and biology faculty work together to discover the basic processes of life and to conquer disease. Many of the accomplishments of the Division’s faculty, staff, and alumni have been recognized by awards such as the Nobel Prize, the Fields Medal, and the National Medal of Science, and by membership in the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

XENON1T experiment
Photo by Enrico Sacchetti

Multidisciplinary research is enhanced by several faculty groupings that cross disciplines and departments. These include the James Franck and Enrico Fermi Institutes, which break down barriers between physicists, chemists, and astronomers, and the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, which connects scientists in the Division to biochemists and molecular biologists. The Committee on Evolutionary Biology draws on the expertise of fossil geologists, paleontologists, and field biologists. The Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics combines physics and astronomy to answer the most fundamental questions of the origin and history of the Universe and the very nature and distribution of its matter and energy.

Geologists during their field experiment
Photo courtesy of Sarah Aarons

PSD faculty are also involved in large-scale, often multi-institutional research ventures. These ventures include:

  • The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, which emphasizes the study of nonlinear dynamics, bio-inspired materials, surface physics and chemistry, and nanomaterials.
  • The FLASH Center for Computational Science, which uses advanced computational techniques to study explosions inside stars.
  • Large-scale programs in astronomy (Sloan Digital Sky Survey Project and the Astrophysical Research Consortium Telescope, both located in New Mexico with remote operations possible from Chicago).
Chemists chatting
Photo by Nancy Wong

Research in the PSD is also augmented by collaboration with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, both of which are located in the suburbs of Chicago; this collaboration provides researchers with easy access to unique, large-scale experimental resources in high-energy physics and in solid-state, nuclear and low-temperature physics, chemistry, computer science, and environmental science.

We invite you to explore the websites of our departments, institutes, and centers to learn more.