Inside the atom

Particle physics

Particle physics is the study of the fundamental ingredients of matter and the forces that affect them. It uses the biggest experiments in the world to understand the smallest building blocks of the universe and to recreate conditions less than one billionth of a second after the Big Bang.

STFC funds UK physicists collaborating in particle physics research all over the world, including:

Components of the two LHC experiments used to discover the Higgs boson,  ATLAS and CMS, were built at RAL.

Find out more about particle physics.

Nuclear physics

Nuclear physics studies the properties and behaviour of atomic nuclei and how they are created. All the different elements found on Earth were created by nuclear processes in stars.

STFC funds UK nuclear physicists to use international radioactive beam facilities like ISOLDE at CERN to study the constituents and interactions of nuclei and how they are formed in the different stages of a stars life.

The STFC Daresbury Laboratory is home to the Nuclear Physics Group who support and coordinate the research of the whole nuclear physics community.

Nuclear physics is important in a wide variety of situations, from medical imaging and cancer treatments to radioactive dating and energy generation.

Find out more about nuclear physics.

Watch our video about atoms and the periodic table or watch CERN’s ATLAS Experiment Movie.

Real data online

Would you like to be a particle physicist in your spare time? Minerva uses real LHC data to enable you to learn more about:

  • the physics that goes on in the ATLAS detector at the LHC
  • how a particle detector works.

Activities to try at home

You can try out some physics in the comfort of your own home or while you’re out and about.

Marvin and Milo: Do try this at home from the Institute of Physics lets you explore physics the exciting way, by trying out simple and fun experiments.

Explore your Universe is a national programme of events, experiments and resources from your local science and discovery centre. The programme helps teach children of all ages about space and particle physics.

We’ve also collected resources aimed at schools and educators.

Follow CERN

Why not keep up to date with what is going on at CERN by watching the CERN YouTube channel or following their social media channels:


Throughout the year we have events, open days and public talks at our sites in Oxfordshire, Cheshire and Edinburgh.

Find out how you can come and see our amazing science and technology.

You can find out what activities are going on near you. Contact your local:

Last updated: 26 February 2024

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