The Galician Institute of High Energy Physics (IGFAE), a joint centre of the University of Santiago de Compostela and the Xunta de Galicia, will be part of the network of centres accredited as a María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence for the next six years. The recognition for the IGFAE, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2024, opens a new stage in the consolidation of the centre.

This distinction from the State Research Agency of Spain means funding of 2.6 million euros over the next four years, which will allow the Institute’s strategic project to be developed and to continue with the evolution initiated during the previous period of accreditation (2017-2021). This milestone generated a profound transformation and boosted the growth of the centre, both in its organisation and in its scientific structure and performance.

The director of the IGFAE, Carlos Salgado, stresses that the renewal as a María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence “is a recognition of the work done in recent years, in a cycle initiated by the first accreditation, which has produced a complete transformation of the IGFAE, and a boost to the ambitious strategic project proposed for the coming years”.

“This new phase coincides with the opening of the IGFAE’s new headquarters, designed to provide the essential scientific infrastructures to meet our scientific challenges”, Carlos Salgado adds.

Training, attracting talent, international impact, equality and diversity

The María de Maeztu seal will mark the IGFAE’s strategic commitment for the coming years, with emphasis on participation in major international experiments, training research personnel and attracting talent.

In this sense, the Institute’s scientific team will be present in projects that will face a breakthrough in the coming years, such as the upgrades at CERN’s LHC or the Pierre Auger Observatory, the detection and analysis of gravitational waves (LIGO), the neutrino experiments DUNE, NEXT, HyperKamiokande), and the development of the GSI/FAIR, FRIB, etc. nuclear physics infrastructures.

The training and talent promotion strategy will also be a priority, with a bigger offer of places for PhD students. The Global Talent programme, which during the previous María de Maeztu accreditation period has already enabled the Institute to strengthen the scientific level of its strategic research areas, will also continue. In addition, the centre maintains a high success rate in highly prestigious calls for proposals, such as those of the European Research Council (ERC), Marie Sklodowska-Curie, Ramón y Cajal and La Caixa Junior Leader.

The new phase will also be marked by a clear commitment to reduce the gender gap (which is still noticeable globally in areas such as particle physics), with a commitment to increase the recruitment of female research staff.

2024, a milestone year for IGFAE

The awarding of the María de Maeztu comes at a key moment in the present and future of the IGFAE. The centre, created on 27 July 1999, is therefore about to celebrate its 25th anniversary, around which a programme of events will be organised to bring the work of the Institute closer to society, and to highlight its relevant role in the most important international scientific collaborations in particle, astroparticle and nuclear physics.

Furthermore, the construction work on the new IGFAE headquarters is now entering its final phase. Once completed, the Institute will increase its current surface area by 70%, with new experimental laboratories, common workspaces and areas for dissemination activities.

About the IGFAE

The Instituto Galego de Física de Altas Enerxías (IGFAE) was born with the main objective of coordinating and promoting scientific and technical research in the field of Particle, Astroparticle and Nuclear Physics and related areas. One of the pillars of its trajectory is based on its participation in international infrastructures such as CERN, GSI / FAIR, the Pierre Auger Observatory and LIGO.

The team comprises some 140 people, including scientific, technical and management staff. The IGFAE also has CIGUS recognition from the Xunta de Galicia, which accredits the quality and impact of its research.