UvA physicists successful in 2014 call for FOM 'Vrije Programma's'

24 November 2014

The proposal for the FOM 'Vrije Programma' grant called 'Higgs as a probe and portal' by UvA professor Eric Laenen, has been granted in the 2014 round. Five other proposals have been selected for funding, including one in which IoP physicists Dr Jan Pieter van der Schaar and Dr Ben Freivogel participate.

Eric Laenen

Prof Eric Laenen

Higgs as a probe and portal

The discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 by the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at CERN was the crown on the standard model. At the same time, the discovery opened a door to new insights: fundamental questions about the universe not explained by the standard model remain. Questions such as: Is the universe stable? Why has antimatter disappeared from the universe? Were the fundamental nuclear and electromagnetic forces ever unified in a single force?

The FOM research programme of UvA professor Laenen and colleagues, embedded in the Nikhef theory group, will investigate these questions, with the Higgs boson as its portal. They will do so from a theoretical perspective, but in close collaboration with colleagues from the ATLAS and LHCb experiments. The total budget for this programme is 2.1 M€.

Eric Laenen: "With the new run of the LHC coming there are great opportunities for new discoveries. Through this programme, focused on the Higgs boson, and with help of our intense collaboration and broad expertise, we can take on a leadership role in the exciting search for physics beyond the standard model."

Observing the big bang: the quantum universe and its imprint on the sky

UvA physicists Dr Ben Freivogel and Dr Jan Pieter van der Schaar are partners in another successful FOM programme proposal entitled ‘Observing the big bang: the quantum universe and its imprint on the sky’. This programme will be carried out under the leadership of Prof. Ana Achucarro (Leiden University) and also involves teams from Nikhef, Utrecht University, and the University of Groningen. The total budget for this programme is 2.3 M€.

Jan Pieter van der Schaar

Dr Jan Pieter van der Schaar

The current distribution of matter (including galaxies, gas and dark matter) in the universe is the result of tiny variations in the density and temperature of the hot early universe. These variations in the cosmic microwave background have been precisely observed by the Planck satellite. The special properties of these variations indicate that they are rooted in quantum effects, which occurred a fraction of a fraction of a second after the Big Bang. The universe then underwent a brief period of accelerated expansion, called cosmological inflation.

Ben Freivogel

Dr Ben Freivogel

This research aims at understanding the origin and evolution of these quantum effects. How did the fluctuations evolve? In what way have they led to the distribution of galaxies and other structures that are now present in the universe? This knowledge is of great importance in order to relate future observations by the Euclid satellite of the large-scale structure of the universe to the initial conditions generated by cosmological inflation.

Programme leader Ana Achúcarro: "The variations in the cosmic background radiation and the distribution of matter in today's universe are different time recordings of the history of the universe: fossil layers of the universe. If you know what to look for, you can reconstruct what happened a fraction of a fraction of a second after the Big Bang."  

FOM ‘Vrije programma's’

In this funding round the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) has awarded a total of 12 M€ to six new research programmes. The research groups will work in areas where Dutch physics has a superb international record and there is a clear scientific and societal interest.

The Vrije FOM-programma's bring together the best research groups in their respective fields in the Netherlands. In each research programme, the specialists from the various Dutch research institutions combine their strengths, resulting in clear programmatic added value. With this FOM realises what is termed 'focus and mass' in policy jargon: working on a limited number of challenging scientific subjects, with a large number of the best researchers in the Netherlands, with the research being coordinated at a national level.


Published by  IOP