The Mitchell Institute of Fundamental Physics and Astronomy now unites three core knowledge areas: Astrophysics, High Energy Experiment, and High Energy Theory. The vibrant research programs spanning these core areas originate new theories, experiments, and observations that illuminate the fundamental structure and mechanics of the Universe.
Who are we?
The George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy is an organizational unit in the College of Science at Texas A&M University. The Institute was established in the summer of 2002 as the result of a generous gift from George P. Mitchell and his wife Cynthia Woods Mitchell.
Researchers at the Institute work in collaboration with scientists across the world to unravel the mysteries of the Universe. To this end, we:
- Explore and advance the understanding of theoretical high-energy physics, astroparticle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology;
- Conduct research in string theory, M-theory and particle phenomenology;
- Connect observations in particle physics, astronomy and cosmology.
In addition to research, the Institute hosts international workshops and conferences, has an active Visitors’ program, and offers a variety of training and educational outreach activities.
What is our mission?
The mission of the Mitchell Institute is to advance our knowledge and understanding of the Universe by building on the interface between Astrophysic, High Energy Experiment, and High Energy Theory. The Institute projects a unified front of research in these core knowledge areas by originating new theories, experiments and observations that illuminate the fundamental structure and mechanics of the Universe. We are dedicated to sharing our knowledge and the excitement of discovery through education and public outreach, conferences, workshops, and a Visitors’ program.
Where are we located?
The Mitchell Institute is located on the Texas A&M campus, at the corner of University Drive and Ireland Street. The Institute adjoins the George P. Mitchell ’40 Physics Building. The twin cities of Bryan and College Station are consistently rated as one of the most livable metropolitan areas in the nation, with excellent schools, shopping centers, hospitals and restaurants. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) are each about a two-hour drive away.
What are our primary areas of research?
The Mitchell Institute has three primary areas of research dedicated to exploring the universe from the lightest particles to the largest structures. The High Energy Theory group works on string theory, gravity, grand unification of fundamental forces, models and phenomenology. The High Energy Experiment group, comprised of observers and instrumentalists, works on the detection and characterization of dark matter. The Astronomy group focuses on observational extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, and on instrumentation. We work, in collaboration with other international Institutes and scientists, to advance our understanding of the universe.
Why is our work important?
Our esteemed colleague Stephen Hawking perhaps sums up the answer best: “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” In addition to adding to our knowledge base, fundamental research has spawned many tangible innovations. For example, our knowledge of the constellations and the motion of the stars has been instrumental in navigation for centuries. Even today, this knowledge helps satellites orient themselves in space. Similarly, myriad inventions have emerged from breakthroughs in physics — ranging from radio and remote sensing to semiconductors, cell phones and lasers. These and other inventions continue to transform our world.
How are we different from other research groups?
Making tremendous strides toward measuring and quantifying the observable universe and delineating its history from the earliest times, cosmology has identified mysteries which can be resolved only through a synthesis of cosmology and particle physics. The Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy is well poised to play a unique role in understanding this interconnection between particle physics and cosmology, by bringing together physicists and astronomers. There is no other Institute in the United States that shares this focus.
The Institute also has a strong educational and training component and is committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists. For instance, the Mitchell Institute’s Physics Enhancement Program (MIPEP) addresses the shortage of highly qualified physics teachers in Texas’ high schools. MIPEP helps teachers become more familiar with physics concepts by demonstrating instructional strategies and laboratory experiments that can excite high school students and improve their performance in physics.
How is The Mitchell Institute funded?
The Mitchell Institute was created in 2002 by George P. Mitchell (’40) and his late wife, Cynthia Woods Mitchell, with an initial $1 million gift to the university. Since then Mr. Mitchell and his family have given gifts totaling $36 million for the construction of the Mitchell Institute and Mitchell Physics buildings, $8 million to support endowed chairs, the Cambridge Collaborative and other projects, and most recently $20 million to create a permanent endowment. In addition to the Mitchells, the Institute and its faculty receive support through the national funding agencies including the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy as well as the Texas A&M Foundation, Texas A& M University, private individuals, corporations, and foundations.