Since the late 1960's, the Physics Department has been home to a research group studying various aspects of classical and quantum gravitation and cosmology. The group was originally founded by Leonard Parker, and has grown in size and stature ever since. Leonard Parker's pioneering work on particle creation in the early universe developed a framework used in hundreds of subsequent papers on quantum field theory in curved spacetime. Over the years, this group has been the center of research for dozens of post-doctoral researchers and graduate students, many of whom have moved on to faculty positions in the United States and elsewhere. The Center for Gravitation and Cosmology was created in 1997 in recognition of the group’s strength and the potential for continued academic achievement.
At the time, the Center for Gravitation and Cosmology consisted of three faculty members (Bruce Allen, John Friedman, and Leonard Parker), three full-time post-doctoral researchers and several graduate students. Today, the Center is home to eight faculty members, two emeritus distinguished professors, five scientists, thirteen post-doctoral researchers, and about ten graduate students. Researchers in the Center address questions at the frontiers of current knowledge of the Universe using a combination of theoretical, computational, and observational methods. In recent years, its members have played high-profile roles in a world-wide effort to analyze data from gravitational-wave observatories. The first detection will usher in a new era of scientific discovery using gravitational waves as an astronomical tool to see black holes, neutron stars, and signals from the beginning of the universe. The reputation and breadth of researchers in the Center allows us to attract talented researchers to UW-Milwaukee to attack key research questions in gravitation, cosmology and astrophysics.
Researchers in the Center have received steady funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) since the 1970's and more recently from NASA. The Center brought in about $3.6M in extra-mural funding in 2009-2010 up from $200,000 per year in 1997.
In July 2011, Alfred and Isabel Bader made a generous gift to UW-Milwaukee in honor of Prof. Leonard Parker and asked that the Center be named for him. In addition, the research activities pursued by members of the Center had shifted to also include astronomy and astrophysics. Therefore, the Center was renamed as Leonard E. Parker Center for Gravitation, Cosmology and Astrophysics.
The growth of the Center has followed a long-range plan that preserves its strength in gravitation and cosmology while developing vibrant research efforts in relativistic astrophysics, numerical relativity, astroparticle physics, and traditional electromagnetic astronomy. Growth has taken full advantage of experimental opportunities such as Advanced LIGO, the Large Hadron Collider, and third generation gravitational-wave detectors. Our research program offers a mix of opportunities and expertise not available elsewhere in the state -- and available at few universities around the world. It is this growth in directions that are related to, but distinct from gravitation and cosmology, that warrants the change of name to include astrophysics.