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Press release

  • 7 April 2008

Sussex shares in £12.5m funding for top-flight physics

Particle physicist Professor Philip Harris monitors an experiment at Sussex

Particle physicist Professor Philip Harris monitors an experiment at Sussex

The University of Sussex Physics department is to benefit from £12.5m in Government funding to support vital UK science research, teaching and development.

The money will fund the creation of the South East Physics Network (SEPNet) - a consortium of six physics departments of the University of Sussex, University of Kent, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway University of London, Southampton University and University of Surrey.

The individual physics departments will maintain their independence. However, the SEPNet initiative will provide:

  • Bigger collaborative projects in four key areas (condensed matter physics; particle physics; astrophysics; radiation and detector instrumentation);

  • Development of individual research strengths;

  • Promotion of the subject more effectively to students at home and internationally;

  • Contributing to the wider economy through engagement with commerce and industry.

The consortium will be led by an independent chair. It will also have a graduate school; an outreach programme to stimulate interest in the subject among pupils in schools, and a one-stop shop for regional employers with a special focus on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The award will enhance physics provision at Sussex by providing for more staff and new programmes such as the Euro Masters initiative for European students).

The grant comes from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which announced the cash award at its annual conference today (7 April 2008). The announcement marks the latest stage in the Council's strategy to boost research, learning and knowledge transfer in science nationwide.

Professor Peter Thomas, Head of Physics at Sussex, welcomed the award, saying: "Sussex has always had a strong Physics and Astronomy Department, outperforming Oxbridge in terms of research impact and bucking the national trend by running a budget surplus. We are, however, relatively small and the specialist nature of our research makes us dependent on a few sources of research funding. SEPNet offers a broader base of activity and the opportunity to expand undergraduate recruitment, postgraduate teaching programmes and to enhance research and engagement with regional employers."

Sussex is well-placed to exploit the HEFCE investment, with faculty and students earning plaudits for groundbreaking work, including:

  • Physics graduate Paul Skrzypczyk named Physics Student of the Year 2007 in a national science competition (fellow Sussex student Robert Zietal was runner-up);
  • Professor J Michael Pendlebury, Research Professor in Experimental Particle Physics awarded the Chadwick medal and prize for distinguished research in particle physics in the Institute of Physics (IOP) 2008 awards;
  • Thomson Scientific named Sussex top in both physics and space science for having the highest average number of citations (published references) for academic research (2006);
  • The Nobel Prize for Physics (2003), which went to Professor Anthony Leggett's work at Sussex into superfluids

Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said: "By working in collaboration they [the departments] can raise the quality of teaching and research, building on the strengths of the individual departments, and broaden the contribution of physics both through research and the development of highly skilled students."

Notes for editors

For details of the HEFCE SEPNet award in full, see HEFCE press release

Or contact Roger Grinyer, tel 0117 931 7307, e-mail or Philip Walker, tel: 0117 931 7363, mobile 07795 257263, e-mail


For details of some of the latest physics research at Sussex, see:


The Sun will vaporise the Earth unless we can change our orbit

Could the Universe be tied up with cosmic string?


Sussex physics experiment ranked in UK's top three


For further information about physics research and courses at the University of Sussex, see:

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email

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