Institute Presentation

UCL – where tradition meets the future

Aiming at the broadening and transmission of human knowledge, university is one of the best inventions of the Middle Ages. The Université catholique de Louvain has played a part in this process with pride since 1425. Just to cite a few: Erasmus, Vésale, Mercator and many others came to Louvain to profit from its location at the heart of Europe.

Closely combining teaching and research, the Université catholique de Louvain set up ten faculties, institutes, special schools, laboratories and seminaries and took over the running of clinics and hospitals. The goal of the university has remained unchanged: to spread learning throughout the world, to support a passion for knowledge and research and to train those who, generations upon generations, deal with the burning issues of their time.

Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) is a perfect illustration of these principles. He was a Belgian priest, astronomer and professor of physics at the Université catholique de Louvain. He proposed the theory of the expansion of the universe and was the first to derive what is now known as Hubble’s law. Lemaître also proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, which he called his “hypothesis of the primeval atom”.  Lemaître was also an early adopter of computers for cosmological calculations. He introduced the first computer to the university (a Burroughs E101) in 1958 and was one of the inventors of the Fast Fourier transform algorithm.

Georges Lemaître and the Burroughs E101
Georges Lemaître and the Burroughs E101

Located 30 km south of Brussels, Louvain-la-Neuve is a truly unique city. The town was created in the 70’s with the sole purpose of hosting the university, when Belgium’s evolution towards federalism led to the institution of two independent universities, one in Flanders, the other in Wallonie. It was decided that the city should not be only inhabited by students, but rather draw a diverse community, as is found in any classic city.

The city centre is built on a gigantic concrete slab, with cars traveling and parking underground. The ground level is mostly car free and organized as a Middle Ages city, with small tortuous streets and passages, stairs, squares and gardens. The pedestrian area is expanding even far from the city centre. The characteristic small two-to-five floor buildings made of red bricks are continuously expanding for nearly 50 years now, around few iconic buildings (the Science Library, now “Museum L”, being one of them).

Louvain-la-Neuve
Louvain-la-Neuve

Set up in Louvain-la-Neuve, the Centre for Cosmology, Particle Physics and Phenomenology (CP3) hosts research on particle detectors, high energy particle physics, phenomenology, theory of the fundamental interactions and cosmology, equally strongly on the experimental and theoretical fronts. The aim of the Centre is to bring together researchers in these scientific fields and to encourage collaboration.

Following a long tradition in theoretical research in the phenomenology of the elementary particles and their fundamental interactions, their unification, and the theoretical and mathematical problems that these issues raise, CP3 members’ activities cover a wide range of fields in fundamental physics, from high energy particle physics to our Universe’s history, from CP-violation in weak decays to tests of general relativity at cosmological scales. They also draw heavily on rich and fascinating fields in theoretical physics and mathematics.

Involved in CERN experiments since the 60’s, the CP3 experimental group holds a strong expertise in instrumentation, software and data analysis techniques. Presently engaged in the operation and exploitation of the CMS detector at the LHC and of the NA62 detector at the SPS, CP3 members have contributed to the construction, technical qualification and commissioning of the CMS silicon tracker. Physicists from CP3 are involved in top physics, (BSM) Higgs studies, exotic physics searches (e.g. HSCP), gamma-gamma interactions, etc. The Centre also has a long tradition in scientific software development. FeynRulesMadGraph5_aMC@NLODelphes, and MoMEMta are MC tools being developed at CP3.

The original version of this article was first published on the AMVA4NP blog.

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