The DIRAC Institute is a world leading, interdisciplinary research center that addresses fundamental questions about the origins and evolution of our universe.

Our research brings together scientists across many disciplines on a mission to understand the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, the emergence of structure within the universe, the formation of galaxies, the birth and evolution of black holes, the transformations of stars, and the origins of the planets.

Discovery in the Era of Complexity

The Universe extends above us in a sea of questions. Billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars and unique planetary systems, pose questions of origins and formation: the origins of the first stars and the planets, the formation of structures within the universe, and the beginnings of life. As the celestial scene moves and changes in layers of pulsing light, we undertake a quest to unravel this complexity, to make sense of this vast and changing Universe.

Now more than ever before, we are on the brink of an era of unparalleled cosmic discovery. Over the next decade, a new generation of telescopes and astronomical surveys will yield a 1000-fold increase in the amount of available astronomical data.

  • The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will detect galaxies at times earlier in the evolution of the universe than ever before;
  • The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will quantify the nature of dark energy by repeatedly surveying the near and distant universe;
  • The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will characterize the structure within our universe out to an epoch less than a hundred million years after the big bang;
  • The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Advanced LIGO) may detect the first gravitational waves from the merging of neutron stars.
Major Astronomical Imaging Surveys of the Next Decade and the size of the data they will generate:
Name Size
Euclid 30PB

Each of these experiments holds great promise for the discovery of new and fundamental physics, ranging from characterizing the nature of dark energy and the composition of dark matter, to discovering the most energetic events in the universe, to tracking asteroids whose orbits may intersect with Earth.

The DIRAC Institute

The field of astrophysics is changing the way it conducts science. The University of Washington aims to be the leader in innovative astronomical research and resource development. DIRAC’s objective is to lead that change, to think of software as the chief instrument for exploring the universe. We are creating a new model of data intensive, computationally-driven science – one that is profoundly interdisciplinary, uniting computer scientists, statisticians, astrophysicists and cosmologists to develop the computational solutions to problems presented by massive data streams.

In this collaborative environment, focused research teams composed of students, postdoctoral fellows and data scientists will focus on astrophysical and cosmological research areas. They develop new approaches for managing, storing, and accessing petabyte data sets and running analyses at scale and within these databases. The Institute is the culmination of ten years of crosscutting research, strategic hiring, interdisciplinary partnerships, and proven collaborative relationships with technology companies like Microsoft and Google. It provides a remarkable opportunity to change the way we undertake astrophysics and to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the origins of our Universe.