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Elise Jennings

Elise Jennings
Elise Jennings is a PhD student at the Institute of Computational Cosmology (ICC) and the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomology (IPPP) at Durham University. As a Marie Curie fellow, Elise's PhD research examines the growth of large scale structure in the Universe, such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Studing the cosmic growth in the Universe is an extremely important tool which can be used to probe fundamental physics.

A scholar of Trinity College Dublin, Elise obtained her degree in theoretical physics there, followed by a research masters in high energy physics studying the internal structure and spin of the proton. As part of Durham University's active outreach programe, Elise takes part in promoting and fostering an interest in astronomy and particle physics. Most recently she led the team of postgraduate students taking part in the ICC’s presentation at The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in 2009 and 2010 in London.

Elise Jennings is on the panel of The Borders of Reality as part of The Green Phoenix debate programme in August 2010.


Elise's research uses cosmological N-body simulations to build model universes using supercomputers. These computer simulations follow the gravitational interaction between masses and can be used to test the known laws of physics. For example, in 1998, two teams studying distant supernovae, presented evidence that, rather than slowing down, the expansion of the Universe is speeding up. This remarkable finding suggests that something is fundamentally wrong with our ideas about cosmology. One solution is that the Universe is filled with a mysterious substance dubbed "dark energy", a kind of antigravity pushing the Universe apart. Alternatively, Einstein's theory of gravity may be wrong. N-body simulations are able to accurately investigate these models, for example if we change the force of gravity, or change the speed at which the Universe is expanding, how does this affect the structures inside the Universe? As astronomers are planning to make huge maps of the Universe in future galaxy surveys, the predictions from N-body simulations can be used to extract all the information available from these maps and eliminate competing models for the Universe.

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