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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory

Since it was founded in 1874, the Cavendish Laboratory has been at the forefront of discovery in physics. The core of the Laboratory’s programme has been, and continues to be, experimental physics, supported by excellence in theory. The policy of the Department is to promote world-leading experimental and theoretical physics in all its diversity. At the same time, the Department encourages applied and collaborative research with our colleagues in other departments, with other Universities and particularly with industry.

Much of our research and teaching has been driven by the desire to understand physics at its most basic level. These topics include many of the ‘big questions’ in physics:
  • the formation of the Universe as we know it, from life and exoplanets  to the earliest phases of the Big Bang;
  • new types of fundamental interactions and symmetries in particle physics; quantum communication and computing;
  • strongly-correlated electron systems;
  • ultra-low temperature physics and new states of matter;
  • nanoscience;
  • the physics of new materials and polymers. 
But equally challenging are researches in other cognate disciplines where physics can make innovative and paradigm-changing contributions. 
These include:
  • the application of physics to the biological, biomedical and life sciences.
  • Most recently these have been joined by a major initiative in the physics of sustainability, emphasising the role that physics plays in addressing the major problems of the global sustainability of our planet.
All these research areas attract many of the world’s brightest students who relish the opportunity to tackle some of the toughest intellectual and experimental challenges in the whole of science. 
Current collaborative partners at Cambridge include the Departments of Chemistry, of Material Sciences and Metallurgy, the Institute of Astronomy, the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and the Schools of Biological Sciences, Clinical Medicine, and Technology.  Industry partners work closely with us.  A number of staff have been outstandingly successful in exploiting new areas of research for the benefit of industry and society.