Core academic disciplines
We will maintain world-class core academic disciplines
All research and education must be underpinned by a deep understanding of the fundamentals.
We have tremendous strength in the core disciplines practised by our academic departments. This was demonstrated in the latest Research Excellence Framework, an assessment of the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, in which over 90 per cent of the research submitted by Imperial was judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent. This excellence is broadly found across all our disciplines, and applies equally to our research outputs, impact and environment. These strengths provide us with the underpinning capability required to work together across disciplines in order to address global challenges. Our Academic Strategy will drive our ambition to achieve these aims.
Actions in detail
- We will work across our Faculties, departments and Global Challenge Institutes to identify and support new emerging disciplines and opportunities.
- While recognising that much of our strength in core disciplines derives from the nurturing of talent within the institution, we will be more proactive in identifying opportunities to recruit a diverse staff group capable of enhancing the quality of our research and education.
- We will build partnerships and engage our external stakeholders to advance and sustain parity of excellence across all our core disciplines, a key factor for successful transdisciplinary research and education.
Fundamental physics: searching for dark matter
Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that physicists believe makes up about a quarter of the energy density of the universe and most of its mass. Its presence is inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter and radiation in the cosmos, but its existence has never been confirmed directly. Its composition is a mystery, leading to the intriguing possibility of hitherto undiscovered physics.
Scientists at Imperial are among those leading the search for dark matter using a variety of approaches. For example, the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment, installed 1.5km underground in South Dakota, is about to turn on and will allow researchers to look for tiny and extremely rare flashes of light that would indicate a collision between a dark matter particle and a normal matter particle. In turn, the new AION programme will deploy novel quantum sensors to search for the lightest dark matter particles using large atom interferometers. Scientists use the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to search for
dark matter particles that might be produced in collisions within the particle accelerator. Imperial researchers also use cosmological data to understand the influence and properties
of dark matter.
For Professor Michele Dougherty CBE FRS, Head of the Department of Physics, the discovery of what this elusive substance really is would be a fantastic achievement, and bring new insights into the nature of our universe. As she notes, “Imperial has a world-class programme in fundamental science, thanks to our excellence across different academic disciplines and our ability to bring together teams working on these different searches. I am also well aware that this is an area that excites young people of all backgrounds, helping us attract the scientists of tomorrow.”