Cosmology is the study of the universe. Ever since humans looking up at the sky could talk, they wondered aloud at the heavens and its contents. In the intervening ages, the universe has lost none of its ability to inspire wonder and excite curiosity. Perhaps foremost of all the sciences, cosmology can draw people in to science.
CERCA, the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics is a center for the advancement and promotion of the scientific understanding of the origin and evolution of the Universe and its contents, and their connection to fundamental physics. The Center connects scientists and educators in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy and at the Shafran Planetarium of the Cleveland Museum of Natural history. It draws together theoretical and experimental physicists and astrophysicists with observational astronomers to explore the cosmos, and together with partner educators to communicate their excitement and knowledge to students and to the world at large.
CERCA is also a partner in the Institute for the Science of Origins, a partnership of CWRU, CMNH and idea stream to advance and promote knowledge in a wide range of origins sciences.
For over a decade, CERCA scientists have and continue to play leading roles in the search for the dark matter and dark energy that appear to fill our galaxy and the universe beyond. Others are predicting the signals in gravity wave detectors from the early universe; measuring the finest details of the cosmic microwave background to ascertain the contents and dynamics of the universe and to explore the properties of galaxy clusters; understanding the formation and properties of black holes; building and operating the largest cosmic ray detectors on the planet to study the collision with our atmosphere of the very highest energy cosmic rays; and exploring other dimensions. CERCA has brought scientists from around the world to Cleveland to discuss the outstanding issues and latest progress in cosmology and particle physics.
CERCA now seeks to build on its success and make Cleveland one of the world’s top centers at the interface between cosmology and particle physics. The next decade will see the turning on of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland; a torrent of data from the Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope; the commissioning of several large telescopes including the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the Hubble; and the conduct of major astrophysical surveys of the universe. It may also see the first detection of dark matter and of gravitational waves. In short, the golden age of cosmology of the last decade is poised to continue as multiple new windows on the universe open.
CERCA scientists already head the leading dark matter experiment in the world, most likely to be the first to detect dark matter in the laboratory. The Center will build on that success, attracting leading theorists in the interpretation and prediction of dark matter properties, and expanding its experimental and observational programs in support of dark matter science to make this the place for scientists looking to discover and understand the mysterious dark matter that makes up over 80% of the matter of this and all galaxies.
At the same time, the partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Shafran Planetarium will be strengthened with renewed emphasis on translating the latest scientific discoveries, especially CERCA science, for the public and for K-12 students locally, nationally and internationally. The new director of the CMNH, Dr. Evalyn Gates, a CWRU Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, is a leader in public education, and formerly headed Chicago’s Adler Planetarium’s astronomy program.
To house these new scientists and programs, the college aims to renovate the historic Morley Building, adjacent to the Physics Department’s home in the Rockefeller Building. Renovation of Morley would enable the Astronomy department and Physics particle-astrophysics group to both expand and co-locate, still leaving room for the seminar rooms, interaction spaces and distance learning facilities that are key to a vibrant world-class research center.
$10,000,000 center naming gift (endowment)
CERCA. This commitment would transform CERCA by endowing major educational and research programs and center operations. It would provide ongoing seed funding for new experimental programs and computational initiatives.
$10,000,000 capital gift
Historic building renovation. Repurposing a historic, but currently vacant, science building adjacent to the Physics Department would enable us to bring together the existing and new CERCA faculty, research staff, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students. The renovation would create seminar rooms, interaction spaces and distance learning facilities to enable research and teaching, and allow scientific workshops to take place on site. The gift would also endow a fund to maintain these facilities.
CERCA Director. Intended to support a recognized senior scholar and leader, this endowed professorship would provide compensation and discretionary support for the head of the Center.
$2,000,000 endowment (each)
Professor of Astronomy or of Physics. In order to fulfill sufficiently the permanent academic emphasis, an additional five to ten endowed professorships in particle-cosmology will be essential. Each of these faculty would be hired based on the needs of the interdisciplinary academic program, but would ideally include at least two theoretical particle-cosmologists, two experimental physicists and two observational/computational astrophysicists.
Faculty startup. Each such gift would fund the startup expenses of at least one new faculty hire. For theorists, this means support for a postdoctoral fellow and a graduate student to participate in his/her research, computer resources, and expenses associated with international collaborations and workshops. For observers, it may also include purchasing a participating share in an international collaboration or instrument. For experimentalists it will include renovating and outfitting their laboratory.
$1,000,000 endowment/$70,000 annual gift (each)
$500,000 endowment/$35,000 annual gift (each)
Postdoctoral and graduate fellows are the immediate engines and future leaders of the field. Leading international centers like CERCA supplement and complement federally-funded grant-supported fellowships with prize fellowships for the most outstanding young scholars that offer both greater intellectual independence and help launch them on academic leadership careers.
Visiting scholars and lecturers. Through a combination of endowment and annual support, a goal of the institute would be to maintain a regular group of visitors for extended periods, with three in residence at any time. This group will engage in scholarly activity through a variety of methods. Their presence will serve to highlight the Center and CWRU to other universities and programs, while adding to the vitality of the university and northeast Ohio.
Annual distinguished lecture series. Each year, the Center will invite a leading figure to Cleveland for a signature lecture open to the community, and organize a scientific workshop associated with the visitor’s work.
$100,000 endowment (each)
Undergraduate exchange and experiential learning opportunities. Each fund would provide support for a CWRU undergraduate to travel either for formal study at a foreign university, or to explore a self-created program in experiential learning.