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GRADUATION: University honours cosmologist who contributed to Cold Dark Matter theory

Carlos Frenk

Professor Carlos Frenk CBE is one of the world’s most eminent cosmologists whose career has focused on exploring theoretical concepts to explain the origin and structure of the Universe.

Most notably, he is among a group of physicists who developed the theory that dark matter – the 85 per cent of the mass of the Universe that we cannot see – is made up of tiny elementary particles created very soon after the Big Bang.

This Cold Dark Matter (CDM) Theory, developed when Carlos was at the University of California in the early 1980s and later at Sussex (1983-85) as a post-doctoral research fellow, has remained the leading explanation for the structure and composition of the Universe.

Now the founding Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham, Carlos remembers his years at Sussex as “one of the most exciting periods of my life as a scientist and as a person, when I had the freedom, the opportunity and the time to develop new ideas. And my first son was born in Brighton”.

The CDM theory led to Carlos, along with fellow physicists at the University of California, receiving the Gruber Cosmology Prize in 2011. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society, and has received, amongst other awards, the Hoyle Medal from the Institute of Physics, the Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, the Max Born Prize German Physical Society.

The pursuit of proof for CDM continues to be the goal of experimental particle physics and astrophysics. Carlos has pointed out that, unlike other sciences, a cosmologist cannot do field research as such but must rely on supercomputers to recreate the evolution of the Universe using simulations based on the known laws of physics.

He says: “There are few more exciting things than to see galaxies and other cosmic structures emerge from a computer with many properties similar to those of real galaxies. But patience is important in this field: developing the physics and implementing them in a computer can take years”

Born in Mexico in 1951, the son of a German Jewish immigrant father and Mexican/Spanish mother, he completed a degree in physics in Mexico before coming to the UK to study at Cambridge.

His motivation is borne from his intense curiosity about the unexplained mysteries of science. “It may seem that we are a tiny and insignificant part of the Universe, but the greatest gift we have as humans is the ability to study it and to understand it.”

Professor Carlos Frenk will be conferred an Honorary Doctor of Science on Friday, 26 July 2019, at a ceremony beginning at 10am.

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 12 July 2019