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National Science Foundation HomeNational Science Foundation - Directorate for Math and Physical Sciences (MPS)
Physics (PHY)
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Additional PHY Resources
PHY: Investigator-Initiated Research Projects
Physics in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC)
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DCL: Announcement of Intent to use an Asynchronous Review Mechanism for Proposals
DCL: Announcement of Instrumentation Fund to Provide Mid-Scale Instrumentation for FY2014 Awards in
DCL: Int'l Activities within PHY-Potential Co-Review
PHY COV Report 2012
Response to the PHY COV Report


PHY Facilities and Centers

The PHY Division supports the following facilities and centers:

Physics Frontiers Centers (PFCs)

This program has been established to foster major advances at the intellectual frontiers of physics by providing needed resources, e.g., combinations of talents, skills, disciplines, and/or specialized infrastructure, not usually available to individual investigators or small groups. The program supports university-based centers and institutes where the collective efforts of a larger group of individuals can enable transformational advances in the most promising research areas. Activities supported through the program are in all sub-fields of physics within the purview of the Division of Physics: atomic, molecular, optical, plasma, elementary particle, nuclear, astro-, gravitational, and biological physics. Interdisciplinary projects at the interface between these physics areas and other physics sub-fields and disciplines, e.g. biology, quantum information science, mathematical physics, and condensed matter physics, and emerging areas of physics are also included.

The Division currently supports the following Physics Frontiers Centers:

Center for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. Four broad areas of research devoted to the understanding of the deepest problems of the interface between cosmology and particle physics.

Center for Theoretical Biological Physics at the University of California at San Diego. Theorists in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics at the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics (CTBP) utilize concepts and techniques from physics and applied mathematics to tackle otherwise intractable problems in the science of living matter and conversely use biological problems to motivate new concepts of broad applicability throughout physics. This award is jointly funded by NSF's Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Directorate for Biological Sciences as part of a partnership to foster research and education at the mathematical and physical sciences - life sciences interface. Funds are being provided by the Physics Frontiers Centers program and the Condensed Matter and Materials Theory program in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate and the Biomolecular Systems cluster in the Directorate for Biological Sciences.

Center for Magnetic Self-Organization in Laboratory and Astrophysical Plasmas at the University of Wisconsin. Unites plasma physicists with plasma astrophysicists to understand magnetic self-organization in astrophysical and laboratory plasmas with a view to identifying and unraveling puzzles in plasma physics that are important in both regimes.

Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics at the University of Notre Dame. Fosters both theoretical and experimental research that supports the connection between nuclear physics and astrophysics.

Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Studies are primarily focused on theoretical condensed matter, elementary particle physics, astrophysics, and biological physics. Jointly sponsored with the Divisions of Materials Research, Astronomical Sciences, and Mathematical Sciences.

JILA at the University of Colorado. Fosters experimental and theoretical atomic, molecular and optical physics research. Sponsored jointly with NIST.

Center for Ultracold Atoms (CUA) brings together a community of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Conducts theoretical and experimental research on ultracold atoms, quantum condensed gases, and atom optics.

Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland will pursue cutting-edge investigations of coherence and entanglement --- two fundamental elements of the physics of quantum information.

Center for the Physics of Living Cells at the University of Illinois Experimentalists, computational physicists, and theorists jointly attack the extreme technical challenges posed by quantifying processes in living cells with the sensitivity needed to explore how life organizes itself, weaving molecular systems into the fabric of living matter. The Center is jointly funded by the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) as part of a partnership to foster research and education at the mathematical and physical sciences/life sciences interface. Participating programs in MPS include the Physics Frontiers Centers program, the Experimental Physical Chemistry program and the Analytical and Surface Chemistry program. Participating programs in BIO include the Biomolecular Systems cluster, the Genes and Genomes cluster and the Neural Systems cluster.

Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM) at the California Institute of Technology. Researchers study physical systems in which the weirdness of the quantum world becomes manifest on macroscopic scales. The research programs span quantum information science, quantum many-body physics, quantum optics, and the quantum mechanics of mechanical systems. Faculty are drawn from Caltech's departments of physics, applied physics, and computer science. The IQIM is jointly funded with the Computing and Communication Foundations division in the Directorate for Computer & Information Science and Engineering.

Other Facilities and Centers

The Division of Physics supports a number of experimental facilities, centers and theoretical institutes. These include:

Facilities:

Science & Technology Center:

Theoretical Institutes:

Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers:

Facilities:

The National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University. Experimental nuclear physics studies using medium-energy heavy ions, especially radioactive beams, to investigate nuclear structure far off the stability line, and nuclear matter at extreme temperature and densities. There is also emphasis on development of superconducting accelerator technology.

The Laser Interferometer Gravity Wave Observatory (LIGO)
Direct detection of gravitational radiation to test the predictions of general relativity, subsequently using these observations as a probe of dark matter, black holes, neutron stars, and other exotic phenomena in the universe that are not seen via the electromagnetic spectrum. Construction of the two LIGO detectors at sites in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana is complete. The accompanying R&D program of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) is focused on AdvLIGO with substantially upgraded capability.

LArge Plasma Device (LAPD) at the University of California at Los Angeles. Co-funded by the NSF and the Department of Energy (DOE), this Basic Plasma Science Facility is the only general user facility for fundamentamental plasma physics in the world. A large plasma column, coupled with extensive diagnostics, offers users the possibility to investigate fundamental plasma phenomena in unprecedented detail.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a particle telescope recently (December 2010) completed (composed of 86 strings buried into the ice) at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, will search for very high energy neutrinos from the most violent astrophysical sources: events like exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars. IceCube, encompassing a cubic kilometer of ice, is a powerful tool to search for dark matter, and could reveal the new physical processes associated with the enigmatic origin of the highest energy particles in nature. The operations, maintenance and research funding is provided jointly by PHY and OPP (the Office of Polar Programs).

Science & Technology Center:

Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology (CBST) at the University of California at Davis. The center brings together scientists, industry, educators and the community to research and develop applications for biophotonics -- the science of using light to understand the inner workings of cells and tissues in living organisms.

Theoretical Institutes:

The Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics (ITAMP) at the Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Theoretical studies of atomic, molecular and optical physics via long-term visitor's programs, postdoctoral fellowships, and graduate education.

The Aspen Center for Physics
Summer study institute focusing mainly on elementary particle physics and astrophysics. Jointly sponsored with the Division of Astronomical Sciences.

The Santa Fe Institute (SFI)
Collaborative theoretical studies of a broad range of multidisciplinary complex systems through long-term and short-term visitor programs, postdoctoral fellowships, graduate and undergraduate research internships, and a summer school. Jointly sponsored with the Directorates for Biological Sciences, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, and Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences.

The e-Print Archive
An on-line electronic archive of preprints in theoretical and experimental physics, as well as many other disciplines.


Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers:

Science of Nanoscale Systems and Their Device Applications A collaboration among Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the Museum of Science Boston, this center combines "top down" and "bottom up" approaches to construct novel electronic and magnetic devices with nanoscale sizes and understand their behavior, including quantum phenomena.

Center for Probing the Nanoscale A collaboration between Stanford University and IBM Corporation, this center focuses on the development of novel probes that dramatically improve our capability to observe, manipulate, and control nanoscale objects and phenomena and the application of these probes to answer fundamental questions in science.

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