Physics Frontiers Centers (PFCs)

The Physics Frontiers Centers (PFC) program supports university-based centers and institutes where the collective efforts of a larger group of individuals can enable transformational advances in the most promising research areas. The program is designed to foster major breakthroughs at the intellectual frontiers of physics by providing needed resources such as combinations of talents, skills, disciplines, and/or specialized infrastructure, not usually available to individual investigators or small groups, in an environment in which the collective efforts of the larger group can be shown to be seminal to promoting significant progress in the science and the education of students. PFCs also include creative, substantive activities aimed at enhancing education, broadening participation of traditionally underrepresented groups, and outreach to the scientific community and general public.

Current Physics Frontiers Centers:

Logo for MAP Center The Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures (CMAP)
University of Rochester

This University of Rochester based center brings together a diverse team, spanning disciplines from plasma physics, condensed matter, and atomic physics, to astrophysics and planetary science to study matter under extreme conditions and address critical gaps in our understanding of most of the atomic and chemical constituents of the Universe. CMAP's research, education and outreach programs aim to bring a new understanding of the universe to the public and inspire and engage a new generation of scientists of all ages and backgrounds.  

Logo: Center for Ultracold Atoms

Center for the Physics of Biological Function (CPBF)
Princeton University

CPBF, a joint effort between The Graduate Center at CUNY and Princeton University, works at the interface of physics and biology with the goal of developing a physics of biological function that connects the myriad details of life, across all scales, to fundamental and universal physical principles. CPBF focuses on new scientific opportunities and educational programs, integrating theory and experiment, research and education.

Logo for Center for the Physics of Living Cells

Center for the Physics of Living Cells (CPLC)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This PFC seeks to uncover the physical principles operating in complex living systems. It will look at biophysical phenomena using experimental techniques at molecular, cellular, and multicellular levels, and aim to enhance the accuracy and detail in theoretical and computational research. CPLC holds outreach and education programs for the public, students of all levels, and teachers involving such activities as seminars, curriculum development, and training in pedagogy.

Logo for Center for Theoretical Biological Physics

Center for Theoretical Biological Physics (CTBP)
Rice University

CTBP will craft a theoretical physics framework for cells and groups of cells. To do this, the Center will combine statistical physics with biological information such as how living systems organize themselves. It will interact with local medical institutions, the University of Houston and surrounding communities, where it will serve as a focal point for theoretical biological physics. By hosting a visiting scholars program, running workshops, and coordinating student networks, CTBP will share its expertise with the biological physics community and help encourage greater participation in this research area.

Logo: Center for the Physics of Biological Function

Center for Ultracold Atoms (CUA)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

CUA studies strongly interacting systems to better understand and ultimately control the quantum world. At the intersection of atomic, molecular, and optical physics and nanoscience, the PFC's research focuses on investigating many-body systems and strongly correlated states as well as exploring quantum coherent control of few-body systems. CUA offers a wide range of education and outreach activities for all levels, including a program focused on future high school teachers and an intensive summer course in atomic physics open to students and researchers worldwide.

Logo: Institute for Quantum Information and Matter

Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM)
California Institute of Technology

The central goal of IQIM is to explore phenomena that can arise in highly entangled quantum systems using a multidisciplinary approach featuring quantum physics, condensed matter physics, atomic, molecular, and optical physics, and computer science. IQIM accomplishes this through both table-top experiments and theoretical investigations of quantum matter and interacting arrays of atoms, photons, and phonons. Along with numerous programs for youth, women, and underrepresented groups, this PFC's extensive outreach efforts include a collaboration with Jorge Cham's PhD Comics and IQIM's blog, Quantum Frontiers, which chronicles the lives and diverse scientific interests of IQIM's members..

Logo: JILA Physics Frontiers Center

JILA Physics Frontiers Center
University of Colorado, NIST

The JILA PFC is focused on the challenge of controlling and understanding multi-particle quantum systems using the tools of atomic, molecular, and optical physics. Research investigations include how complex behaviors can emerge from simple constituents, how interactions of light with matter can be used to create new complex systems, and how cutting edge technologies can help understand molecule formation and chemical reactions. Along with topical workshops and education programs for the scientific community, JILA PFC also connects with underrepresented groups in the K-12 population through its Partnerships in Informal Science in the Community program.

Logo: Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics - Center for the Evolution of the Elements (JINA-CEE)

Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics - Center for the Evolution of the Elements (JINA-CEE)
Michigan State University

The four core institutions of JINA-CEE, along with their eighteen associated domestic institutions and partnerships with other international centers, bring together nuclear physics and astrophysics for theoretical, computational, and laboratory investigations. JINA-CEE will explore two closely connected topics: the origin of the elements beyond those created in the Big Bang and the properties of the dense matter in neutron stars. This PFC will use interdisciplinary visitor, school, and workshop programs to engage K-12, undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, and the public.

The Network in Neutrinos, Nuclear Astrophysics and Symmetries (N3AS)
University of California Berkeley

This PFC, based at UC Berkeley, is a collaboration of theorists who utilize astrophysical observations to answer some of the most important open questions in physics and multi-messenger astrophysics. The Center has the potential to influence the future directions of nuclear, particle, and astrophysics. The new generation of postdoctoral researchers that N3AS-PFC is training and the diverse group of students it recruits and engages through a new program for transfer students from local community colleges will be crucial to both current research and the development of the STEM workforce. 

Logo: NANOGrav

North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav)
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

NANOGrav will focus on the detection and characterization of gravitational waves, which are ripples in spacetime predicted by General Relativity. The center will look for gravitational waves with nanohertz frequencies-frequencies eleven orders of magnitude lower than those probed by the Laser Interferometry Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). NANOGrav will observe and correlate signals of millisecond pulsars, pulsating neutron stars that spin with a period on the order of a millisecond. This PFC will also interact with middle school, high school, and undergraduate students, engaging them in data collection and analysis along with public lecture programs.

Logo: PFC at the Joint Quantum Institute

Physics Frontier Center at the Joint Quantum Institute (PFC@JQI)
University of Maryland College Park

Advances in atomic, molecular, optical, and condensed matter physics are allowing scientists to go beyond observation and measurement of quantum systems to now explore engineering of these systems. PFC@JQI will investigate the control of quantum systems by building materials with specific quantum properties and exploiting these systems to explore new areas of the quantum realm. The Center will also hold programs engaging the general public and all levels of education, including an intensive hands-on summer physics program for high school students.