The physics department at the VUB has a commitment to excellence in research that is acknowlegded by the university in two strategic research programmes (SRP) and by the European research council in the following ERC grant:
The high energy physics group at the VUB (HEP @ VUB) aims at unraveling the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. The HEP @ VUB collaboration is a concerted initiative involving theoretical and experimental physicist. The theory research includes the study of the fundamental laws of nature and their mathematical consistent and comprehensive description. The experimental investigations include studying matter at very small scale -- or equivalently at very high energies -- using the CMS detector at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). For energy scales beyond the reach of the LHC we make use of the most energetic particles coming from the cosmos, as they are detected by the IceCube observatory at the South Pole. The research action aim to address questions related to the fundamental physics processes involved in the most energetic phenomena in the Universe, the nature of dark matter and the structure of primordial quark-gluon plasma, which implies understanding physics at both the largest and the smallest scales at the same time.
HEP @ VUB is funded by the VUB through the Strategic Research Program "High-Energy Physics" started in 2013, whose objective is to strengthen the research in high energy physics at the VUB. The Strategic Research Program "High-Energy Physics" supports a particle physics Pheno Group whose research activity is focused on high energy phenomenology, with the goal of connecting theory and experiment in high energy physics.
Applied Physics and Systems Biology
The applied physics and photonics group uses experimental and theoretical methods (nonlinear dynamics, stochastic processes, complex systems, etc.) to tackle and answer some fundamental challenges about nonlinear, complex and time-evolving systems. This combination allows an imaginative and insightful approach to problems, thereby avoiding the “fundamental-applied” polarisation. Besides photonic systems (such as e.g. semiconductor lasers) we also study other dynamical (e.g. biological) systems. Read more
ERC grant Radio emission from Cosmic Rays
Cosmic rays are energetic particles (protons and heavier nuclei) that constantly bombard the Earth's atmosphere. Their origin is still unknown, but possible sources of cosmic rays include supernova remnants, gamma-ray bursts and active black holes. To identify the sources, detailed measurements of the cosmic-ray mass, energy and arrival direction are needed. At the astrophysics department of the VUB, a new method is used to infer cosmic-ray masses from the short radio flashes that are emitted when cosmic particles interact in the Earth's atmopshere. These pulses are detected with LOFAR, a revolutionary radio telescope built in the Netherlands. In contrast to traditional dish telescopes, LOFAR can constantly monitor the whole sky, recording cosmic ray radio flashes whenever they occur. The complex radio patterns carry information about the cosmic ray, and will help to better understand and disentangle the Galactic and extragalactic contributions to the cosmic-ray flux. This research was awarded an ERC Research Grant.