Research overview

The School of Physics & Astronomy is one of the leading Physics departments in the UK.

PHYESTA, the joint School of Physics & Astronomy between the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, was ranked 4th in the UK out of 41 submissions in the REF-2014 listing, with 96% of our research outputs measured as 4*/3* (world-leading/internationally excellent).

Our performance on quality was even better; we were ranked 3rd in the UK. This confirms the exceptional performance of our staff, our excellent facilities, and our world-leading research.

PHYESTA was founded in 2010 to combine two of Scotland's leading Physics and Astronomy departments into a single world-class research centre. We have a common research vision and share facilities and postgraduate training. We carry out research in a broad range of areas such as Astronomy, Cosmology, Photonics, Particle Physics, Nuclear Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Biophysics and Astrobiology.

Our vibrant research activity is built upon world-class academic staff, postgraduate research fellows, a large, well-resourced Graduate School and high-class research support facilities and infrastructure, available both internally and externally.


The School has more than 300 researchers, each belonging to one or more of its research institutes: the Institute for Astronomy (IfA); the Institute for Condensed Matter and Complex Systems (ICMCS) and the Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics (IPNP).

The School also has a number of research centres: the UK Centre for Astrobiology, the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics, the Tait Institute, and the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions. These centres bring together researchers from different institutes, departments and universities to address multi-disciplinary problems.

  • Our research directory outlines our research institutes, groups and centres in full detail.

Research activities

Researchers in the School are regularly involved in high-impact work such as the search for the Higgs Boson, the study of the oldest galaxies in the Universe, and investigating the nature of the "dark matter" and "dark energy", which make up 95% of the universe.

We also engage in public outreach, with staff and students collaborating with the Royal Observatory Visitor Centre, running a very successul programme called Particle Physics for Scottish Schools and attending science festivals around the country.

Our research varies from being highly fundamental to very applied and a number of our research groups are involved in collaborative projects with industrial partners.

  • Our industry pages explain how we help businesses.

Ethics and integrity

Informatics about Research ethics and integrity.