Dark matter research boosted by Australian Research Council grant

Cox Stawell ARC
Dr Cox’s research will be used to guide future experiments at Stawell and to interpret their results. Image: University of Melbourne

Australia’s search for dark matter has been boosted by funding for the research of a University of Melbourne physicist, Dr Peter Cox.

Dr Cox has been awarded a $445,688 research grant to investigate new models of dark matter and will collaborate closely with researchers in the Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics and at the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory.

Dr Cox’s research will be used to guide future experiments at Stawell and to interpret their results.

“Understanding the nature of dark matter will lead to invaluable insights into the history and evolution of our universe,” Dr Cox said. “This research will develop new theoretical models of dark matter and explore new approaches for its detection.”

The Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory is being led by University of Melbourne’s, Professor Elisabetta Barberio, who has welcomed the additional support for dark matter research.

“This funding boost for the dark matter search will help progress our work,” said Professor Barberio.

The $445,688 research grant was announced by the Minister for Education Dan Tehan under the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme.

“The discovery of dark matter will be one of the greatest achievements in science, helping to improve our understanding of the universe,” said Mr Tehan. “The work undertaken by Dr Cox, and other researchers in the ARC Centre, will add to our knowledge, enhance Australia’s research capability and help train a new generation of researchers.”

Dark matter makes up 84 per cent of the matter in the universe, but its properties remain unknown.

The Stawell Physics Laboratory is being built one kilometre underground at a disused section of the Stawell Gold Mines in regional Victoria to allow scientists in Australia to conduct cutting-edge research on dark matter.

Funding for the lab was announced in 2019 with Commonwealth and Victorian governments both allocating $5 million each for the facility. A $35 million Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics, based at the University of Melbourne, was awarded by the Australian Research Council.

The partners for the underground lab are the University of Melbourne, the Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics and the Stawell Gold Mines.

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