Boost for UK physics
May 13, 1999
The first awards under a £700m scheme to upgrade research facilities in UK universities have been announced. Six physics projects have been successful in the first round of the Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF), and a further eight projects in related areas have also been funded. The physics projects include nanoscale science in Birmingham, mesoscopic materials at Cambridge, gravitational-wave detection at Glasgow, low-temperature physics at Lancaster, planetary science at Oxford and a new visible and infrared telescope. The 4-metre VISTA telescope will be built by a consortium of 18 universities led by Jim Emerson of Queen Mary and Westfield College in London.
The JIF scheme is funded by the government and the Wellcome Trust, the world's largest biomedical research charity. It was established after several reports found that a shortage of state-of-the-art research equipment was making it difficult for universities in the UK to remain at the forefront of international research. Nearly £150m has been awarded to 37 projects in 22 different institutions in the first round of the scheme.
The VISTA telescope will spend three-quarters of its time conducting a detailed all-sky survey, and will be the first UK project in this field since the 1.2-metre Anglo-Australian Schmidt telescope. Unlike Schmidt, VISTA will use CCD cameras instead of photographic plates to obtain its images. "VISTA will be an outstandingly powerful tool for British astronomy, ” says Emerson. “The whole astronomical community is delighted with this decision.”