Fundamental Science

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How did the universe begin?
What is space and time?

How did the universe begin?

From the most basic proteins to the most
complex systems, what is life and
how does it work?

How did the universe begin?

What is space and time?

From the most basic proteins to the most
complex systems, what is life and how does it work?

How did the universe begin?

What is space and time?

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Science is fundamentally about discovery. Harnessing tools and methods to understand what had previously been mysteries, scientists are detectives seeking to understand the world around us and add to humankind’s collective knowledge. Basic science is the starting point, the foundation of the research enterprise and the core component of Columbia’s strength in the natural sciences.

The discoveries made by basic scientists may lead to surprising and previously unknown practical advances – in medicine, technology, industry – and examples of basic science fueling the pipeline of innovation abound. But the goal of fundamental science is first and foremost to advance human knowledge and lead to greater understanding of the universe around us.

ORIGINS

Columbia’s Origins Initiative seeks to bring our unique talents from diverse fields ranging from Physics to Psychology, paired with expertise in philosophy, law, and religion, to understand the universe and our place within it. Centered on three fundamental Origins themes – Origins of the Universe, Origins of Life, and Origins of Consciousness – we are positioned to study and address some of the most fundamental questions humans have asked about ourselves and our place within the cosmos.

GRAVITATIONAL WAVES

Physicists have just found a way to observe gravitational waves, disturbances in the fabric of space-time. Caused by violent events such as black holes colliding, supernovae exploding, and even potentially someday the Big Bang itself, these waves offer us a new way of observing these powerful cosmic events. This new way of seeing the universe may also lead to insight into its fundamental laws, revealing things that we have yet to imagine.

REIMAGINING ASTRONOMY

Modern astronomy has expanded beyond its origins as a pursuit of a lone academic atop a mountain to include vast data generated by collaborative teams using space and ground-based surveys and simulations run on the most powerful supercomputers. Pupin Hall, Astronomy’s home, was built 90 years ago based on a 19th century model of higher education. We now have the opportunity to reimagine Astronomy’s space as it should be for the 21st century.


  • Columbia University congratulates Joachim Frank, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and biological sciences at Columbia University Medical Center, and a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • The study of life on and off Earth needs unified funding and a coherent plan, say Caleb Scharf, Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, and his colleagues in a Nature article published January 8, 2018.
  • Using electron microscopy, Columbia University Medical Center biologists have captured the first detailed images of a calcium membrane pore in action, revealing a potential target for treating cancer.