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German Excellence Strategy: Mainz University to submit full proposal for PRISMA+

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Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) started successfully in the Excellence Strategy competition of the German federal and state governments. JGU will enter the final round with a full proposal for the PRISMA+ Cluster of Excellence. The international expert committee of 39 researchers and scientists named by the German Joint Science Conference (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz, GWK) has called on Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz to submit a follow-up proposal for its "Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions, and Structure of Matter" (PRISMA) Cluster of Excellence, which had been successful already in the previous Excellence Initiative competition. "We are very happy that our draft proposal for PRISMA+ has been approved by the international advisory body. As we were up against stiff competition, the outcome confirms the international standing of our physicists here in Mainz", explained President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Professor Georg Krausch.

The PRISMA+ Cluster of Excellence is dedicated to exploring the most exciting questions in fundamental physics today such as the nature of dark matter and the existence of new particles and forces. PRISMA+ comprises high-profile research groups in the areas of astroparticle, particle, hadron and nuclear physics, as well as laser spectroscopy and physics with ultra-cold neutrons (UCN) and expands on the PRISMA Cluster of Excellence that already received funding from 2012 to 2017. Professor Matthias Neubert from the JGU Institute of Physics and Professor Hartmut Wittig from the JGU Institute of Nuclear Physics act as spokespersons of PRISMA+.

The flagship projects of PRISMA+ include the search for dark matter and axion-like particles, as well as investigations of neutrino properties. Another approach for exploring the limits of the Standard Model of particle physics consists in comparing precision measurements with theoretical predictions. JGU's innovative electron accelerator MESA is a centerpiece of the research program. MESA's extremely high beam current offers unique opportunities for measuring low-energy precision observables and exploring the dark sector. MESA will host the P2 experiment designed to search for signs of new physics via an extremely precise measurement of the electroweak mixing angle. The MAGIX spectrometer at MESA is capable of measuring proton form factors in a previously inaccessible range, making decisive contributions to the resolution of the proton radius puzzle. MAGIX will also search for messenger particles between dark and luminous matter, so-called dark photons, while the highly intense beam of MESA enables direct searches for dark matter with a new beam-dump experiment.

Another key experiment is the precision measurement of the neutron lifetime at JGU's TRIGA reactor using a new magnetic storage technique. PRISMA+ scientists are at the forefront of applying laser spectroscopy of trapped atoms to determine the charge radii of light nuclei and parity-violating observables, complementing the measurements at P2 and MAGIX. Exploring the properties of weakly interacting particles such as neutrinos, dark matter, and axions is another research focus of PRISMA+. Searches for dark matter and messenger particles will be performed at the XENON and ATLAS detectors. These activities are complemented by ultra-sensitive magnetometry experiments searching for axions. New research efforts in neutrino physics are focused on determining neutrino masses and mixing parameters. A cooperation agreement between Mainz University and Fermilab forms the basis for a joint initiative in accelerator-based neutrino physics, aimed at establishing CP violation in the neutrino sector.

The cluster will profit greatly from the scientific programs and workshops of the Mainz Institute for Theoretical Physics. PRISMA+ aims at connecting the internationally leading research environment with an ambitious and high-quality education and training program. The Mainz Physics Academy will create an umbrella structure for all measures in education, training, recruiting, and early-career support. Furthermore, PRISMA+ will promote women in science by significantly expanding the activities of the established Irène Joliot-Curie Program.

The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) received proposals for a total of 195 Clusters of Excellence. With today's decision, 88 proposals from 41 universities have entered the next round of the competition. The decision as to which projects will receive financial support for a seven-year period starting January 1, 2019 will be made in September 2018.

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Petra Giegerich
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