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No 6249

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Vol cxlii No 14

pp. 326–357

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr Kate Pretty was presiding, with the Registrary’s deputy, the Junior Proctor, a Pro-Proctor, and five other persons present.

The following Report was discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 21 November 2011, on the construction of a new building for research in Experimental Astrophysics (Reporter, 2011–12, p. 210)

Professor W. J. Stirling (Head of the Cavendish Laboratory):

Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as Head of the Cavendish Laboratory I am delighted that the scheme to construct the new building for Experimental Astrophysics has reached this advanced stage. The Department is very grateful to all those within the wider University who have contributed to the success of the project so far, including our collaborators in the Institute of Astronomy and most especially our donor.

The building will provide an excellent centre for new research and for new ways of doing research in the rapidly developing field of astrophysics. The co-location of research activities and facilities will provide a clear focus for this scientific effort.

Modern astrophysics and cosmology is based around large collaborative partnerships, often international in nature, as a means of developing complex technologies to explore and understand the Universe in unprecedented detail.

It has long been a strategic aim of the University’s School of the Physical Sciences to facilitate greater integration of its research in astrophysics, astronomy, and cosmology as a means of enhancing Cambridge’s participation and influence in large international research projects. Greater integration of the strengths across the Cavendish Laboratory and the Institute of Astronomy, from detector development to full science exploitation and interpretation, is vital in order for Cambridge to maintain pre-eminence in the field in the UK, and integral to the UK’s leadership of European astrophysics. Significant gains are possible in areas such as instrumentation development and the analysis of astronomical datasets, where there is expertise both within the Institute of Astronomy and the Cavendish Laboratory.

Integration also has significant potential benefits for undergraduate and postgraduate education, and for outreach.

In 2009, thanks to the generous support of the Kavli Foundation, the University opened the Kavli Institute for Cosmology on the Institute of Astronomy site; a major first step towards achieving the School’s strategic goal. Success is already evident with staff members currently interpreting the superb data acquired by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, which should improve by an order of magnitude our knowledge of conditions in the early Universe, cosmological parameters, and dark energy.

In order to realize the School’s strategic aim, however, a new building is required to house the remainder of Cambridge’s experimental astrophysicists on the Institute of Astronomy site, to provide additional space for new developments. This will significantly further the co-location of research in astrophysics, astronomy, and cosmology, and will provide more opportunities for great scientific advances through close integration of science and technology teams.

With space to host international conferences and visitors, funded from existing research grants and endowments, the building will establish a global reputation as a world-class centre of research excellence in all aspects of astrophysics and cosmology. This will enhance Cambridge’s ability to attract the very best scholars and young scientists from around the world. With the overriding aim of maintaining a strong, diverse, and international talent-pool, new appointments of leading academics will continue to strengthen the research effort and allow the Departments to adapt to emerging areas of research. For example, Professor Roberto Maiolino has recently been appointed to the Chair of Experimental Astrophysics and will join the group in Cambridge in 2012, bringing new scientific and technical opportunities in the areas of Millimetre-Infrared-Optical Astronomy and Galaxy Evolution.

This exciting project will bring enormous benefits to research, teaching, and outreach in astrophysics, astronomy, and cosmology and we warmly commend this Report to the University.