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Dr Stefan Schacht smiling straight ahead and wearing glasses

Congratulations to particle physicist Dr Stefan Schacht who has been awarded a prestigious Ernest Rutherford Fellowship to investigate the most basic building blocks of our Universe.

Stefan is one of ten emerging UK science leaders to receive a Fellowship from the UKRI Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The award will see Stefan join Durham’s Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (IPPP) from his current role at the University of Manchester.

Building blocks of matter

Stefan’s research will push the boundaries of the Standard Model of Particle Physics – scientists’ current best theory to describe how the basic building blocks of matter interact.

One of the biggest unanswered questions in physics is why there is more matter than antimatter in the Universe.

The matter that we see today – including the matter that makes us - is the result of this slight asymmetry that emerged very early in the history of the cosmos.

As we know that the Standard Model prediction for the matter-antimatter asymmetry is off by many orders of magnitudes, we need to search for inconsistencies in the construction of the unitarity triangle. The latter would imply the discovery of physics beyond the Standard Model, which would lead us beyond our current knowledge.

Dr Stefan Schacht
UKRI STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow

Unitarity triangle

Importantly, this phenomenon implies different probabilities for the decay of matter and antimatter particles beyond that described by the Standard Model.

This is encoded in the so-called unitarity triangle - a visualisation of the different probabilities of quarks, the smallest building blocks of matter, transitioning from one form to another.

The exact nature of the triangle remains to be discovered and scientists debate whether the triangle actually closes.

In his research, Stefan will obtain crucial new insights in order to perform the triangle closure test with upcoming experimental data.

UK physics’ research capability

The STFC is investing £6million in this year’s Ernest Rutherford Fellowship programme.

Designed to reward talented researchers at UK universities to contribute to the UK’s scientific ambitions, the programme has supported over 100 early-career researchers and has significantly bolstered UK physics’ research capability.

* Congratulations also go to Durham graduate and former postdoctoral research associate Dr Jacob Kegerreis who has received one of this year’s Ernest Rutherford Fellowships.

Jacob, who is a visiting academic in our Institute for Computational Cosmology, went on to work at NASA Ames. During his fellowship at Imperial College London, he will look at violent collisions involving early planets and asteroids to see how planetary systems like Mars and Saturn could have evolved.

Find out more

  • Discover more about the Ernest Rutherford Fellowships.

  • Durham’s Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology is the UK’s national centre for particle phenomenology.

  • Learn more about our Institute for Computational Cosmology.

  • Our Department of Physics is a thriving centre for research and education. Ranked 2nd in the UK in The Guardian University Guide 2024 and in the World Top 100 in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024, we are proud to deliver a teaching and learning experience for students which closely aligns with the research-intensive values and practices of the University. Feeling inspired? Visit our Physics webpages to learn more about our postgraduate and undergraduate programmes.

  • Durham University is a top 100 world university. In the QS World University Rankings 2024, we were ranked 78th globally.