Exploring the makeup of the universe
Our research covers galaxies and stars, large-scale structures, gravitational waves and dark energy
The Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG) is an international centre of research excellence in cosmology, gravitation and astrophysics.
Our Cosmology and Astrophysics research investigates the evolution of galaxies and their stars, the early universe and large-scale structure in the cosmos, as well as the energy content of the Universe and the nature of gravity. Through the work of the institute, we seek to understand the physics of the Universe and inspire the next generation of scientist through education, training and outreach. We also innovate using our advanced skills in mathematics and data science. 100% of ICG research was judged to be world-leading or internationally excellent in the REF2021 Research Excellence Framework.
Scientists at the ICG play leading roles in major ongoing international collaborations and projects, including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the European Space Agency Euclid satellite, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA). Follow the links below for more details about these and many other projects that we are involved in at the ICG.
Cosmology and Astrophysics research
Research at the Institute covers theoretical and observational cosmology and astrophysics, and their interface, and is supported by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Royal Society, European Research Council (ERC) and European Union (EU) funding.
Within the 4 areas of expertise below, our work covers topics including the very early universe, dark energy, testing gravity on cosmological scales, large scale structure, gravitational lensing. supernovae, galaxy evolution, and stellar population modelling.
We're working to better understand the basic building blocks of our Universe, the origin of stars, the formation and evolution of galaxies, and stellar population models. Explore our astrophysics research
We're studying supernovae and the appearance of distance between Earth and galaxies, and measuring the positions of large-scale structures in the Universe.
We're exploring the inflation of the very early Universe, the impact of dark energy on its geometry and developing tests to monitor its expansion.
We're detecting cosmic gravitational waves and developing gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool.
The University offers a range of undergraduate courses in mathematics and physics, including:
- BSc (Hons)/MPhys (Hons) Physics
- BSc (Hons)/MPhys (Hons) Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology
- BSc Mathematics
We also offer PhDs at the ICG – visit our Cosmology and Gravitation postgraduate research page for details of our current pre-approved funded and self-funded PhDs, and to find out more about our PhD studentships.
We welcome applications from all qualified applicants, but applications are particularly encouraged from traditionally under-represented groups in science. The University of Portsmouth holds an Athena SWAN bronze award and is an Institute of Physics Project Juno Supporter; these projects show a commitment to introduce organisational and cultural practices that promote gender equality in science and create a better working environment for men and women.
Athena SWAN at the ICG
The Athena SWAN Charter was established by the Equality Challenge Unit to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research.
The University of Portsmouth has been awarded Athena SWAN Bronze as a Higher Education Institution, and the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation has been awarded an Athena SWAN Bronze award, in recognition of the good employment practice in place within the department.
Dignity and Respect in the ICG
We believe everyone has the right to work and study with dignity and respect, free from harassment and bullying. We're committed to widening participation in higher education, whether you are an undergraduate student, postgraduate student, postdoctoral researcher or staff member. It's essential we understand and accommodate everyone’s individual needs for our continued success.
Within the ICG, Laura Nuttall is our Dignity and Respect Champion – for more information on the work we're doing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outreach and public engagement activities
We're committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists through our programme of outreach and public engagement, working with local schools and online communities through citizen science projects.
In 2016 – 2018, the ICG hosted an Isaac Physics Fellow (Dr Nic Bonne) who ran physics problem solving sessions for students and CPD sessions for teachers. While the Isaac Physics Fellow scheme is no longer running you can still access the free online resources that Isaac Physics offer.
See the official Cosmic Stroll website for the app that allows you to take a virtual reality stroll through the cosmos.
Here is a custom version of Galaxy Zoo for Year 5 designed specifically for outreach sessions as part of our “A Visit from Space” offering to Primary Schools. Please note that clicks collected on that site are not used for research.
To contribute to research you need to visit the real version of Galaxy Zoo.
Build your own Universe
The ‘Build your own Universe’ kit was provided by SEPnet and developed at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Alternatively you can download the instruction booklet from the link below.
You may have looked through a CD spectroscope at one of our public events and seen how sources of light split up into different colours. It is easy to make your own spectroscope at home using a CD and a cardboard container, the ones that we have on our stands tend to be made using cereal boxes or kitchen roll tubes.
There are lots of websites with instructions for making a CD spectroscope. This video from Dr Andrew Steele shows you how to make a CD spectroscope that is similar to the ones that we have on display and this website shows lots of examples of the different types of spectra that you can see by looking at different types of light.
In 2017, the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation introduced a new strategic schools outreach programme, focusing our schools outreach (key stage 2–4) on working with three partner secondary schools in Portsmouth and their feeder primary/junior schools. The idea behind this change is to provide a coherent programme of events and activities that school pupils will participate in throughout their school career, with the goal of moving away from one-off interactions to a sustained programme of repeat engagements with the same pupils.
This unfortunately means that we have limited capacity to work with other schools. Events that are open to schools outside of the schools outreach programme will be advertised and booked through the University of Portsmouth Recruitment and Outreach Team. However, if you have any questions about the schools outreach programme, or the ICG’s outreach and public engagement strategy, then please contact the ICG Public Engagement and Outreach Manager, Dr Jen Gupta (email@example.com).
ICG outreach activities are delivered both on campus at the university and on site at schools, by fully-trained members of the ICG and physics undergraduate students, and are free for the school. The ICG schools outreach programme is supported by the South East Physics Network (SEPnet) and The Ogden Trust.
Physics outreach to key stage 5 students, including Physics Taster Days at the university and talks in colleges, is organised through the Faculty of Technology. For more information please contact the Faculty of Technology Outreach Coordinator, James Allen, on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ICG is home to the Tactile Universe, a project to open up topics in astrophysics to young people with vision impairments. We have created lesson plans and activities that use tactile images of galaxies and other astronomical objects, and trained people across the UK to use and deliver workshops using these resources. For more information, please visit the Tactile Universe website.