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UCy wins €1.2 mln ERC grant for research on Dark Matter

16 January, 2014

A University of Cyprus project on the effects of Dark Matter and Dark Energy on gravitational theory has won a 1.2 mln euro grant from the European Research Council (ERC) as part of ‘consolidator grants’ worth 575 mln disbursed to 312 scientists.
Grants are worth up to 2.75 mln each, with an average of 1.84 mln per grant. This new funding will enable already independent excellent researchers to consolidate their own research teams and to develop their most innovative ideas across the European Research Area, the ERC said in an announcement.
The sole Cypriot project, headed by Dr. Constantinos Skordis on “Theories and Models of the Dark Sector: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Gravity (TheMoDS)” tests the assumptions of the governing theory of gravity, Einstein’s General Relativity: asking whether it holds all the answers.
Dr Skordis and his team are exploring the effects of the Dark Sector and gravity on the evolution of the cosmos. The Dark Sector is made up of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. This ERC-funded research aims to test current paradigms further, and in the process to revise our knowledge of the Dark Sector.
Specifically, the TheMoDS project will work towards a more accurate assessment of Dark Matter and Dark Energy and attempt nothing less than a testing of gravitational theories against cosmological evidence. They will draw chiefly on cosmic microwave radiation data from ESA's Planck Surveyor and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (established in the desert in Northern Chile).
Data from the Planck Surveyor, as well as other available observations of the solar system, will allow them to test theoretical models and in doing so reach a more accurate understanding of the workings of Gravity and the role of the Dark Sector in cosmology.
“These researchers are doing ground-breaking work that will advance our knowledge and make a difference to society. The ERC is supporting them at a key moment where funding is often hard to come by: when they need to move forward in their career and develop their own research and teams,” said European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
The newly appointed President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon added: “Judging by the ever increasing demand for ERC grants, especially from early- and mid-career researchers, it is clear that funding of this kind is much needed. It’s pivotal for Europe to create conditions for its new generation of researchers to thrive while following their scientific curiosity.”
With over 3600 proposals submitted, the demand for these grants rose by 46% this year, compared to the corresponding group of applicants in 2012. The ERC Consolidator Grant scheme targets researchers with seven to twelve years’ experience after their PhD, a period of the scientific career covered until 2012 under the Starting Grant scheme. The share of women amongst the successful candidates in this call (24%) increased in comparison with the equivalent group of mid-career researchers in 2012 (22.5%). The average age of the selected researchers is 39. The overall success rate is 8.5%.
In this call, grants were awarded to researchers of 33 different nationalities, hosted in institutions located in 21 different countries in Europe, with nine of them hosting five grantees or more. The UK (62 grants), Germany (43) and France (42) are in the lead. Researchers are also hosted in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Israel, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Turkey, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Norway.