Cantabria International Campus > Excellence Areas > Physics and Mathematics
2009 – 2014 Progress. Physics and Mathematics

​The PHYSICS AND MATHEMATICS AREA of the CIC has managed to position the UC in the Shanghai Ranking: in 2013, for the first time in its history, the UC was ranked among the 151-200 top universities in the world in the area of Physics. These results are the clearest evidence of the outstanding scientific work being done at the UC. The UC's excellence in teaching has also received recognition, ranked as the best Spanish university to study a Degree in Physics and 2nd in Mathematics, hence the offer of the new dual Degree in Physics and Mathematics (year 2014/2015).

The Physics Institute of Cantabria (IFCA), a mixed centre of the UC and CSIC, is the central element of the Strategic Area, playing a fundamental role as the basic support for R&D and computation for all other areas. With over 250 international publications per year in prestigious scientific journals, the IFCA has managed to raise over 6M€ in funding during 2009-2014, principally through competitive research projects. It has also created 2 spin offs and has a staff of some 100 people (the CSIC has seen a significant 35% increase in personnel). In 2014, a new floor was added to its facilities, financed through funding raised by the CIC.

During the period 2009-2014, the IFCA has consolidated its association with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The relation with the ESA is particularly close. The UC is a very active participant in various projects, including the Planck Mission, the XMM-Newton Observatory and one of two future macro-projects: the ATHENA telescope, with the presence of a researcher from this institute on its coordination team (which only counts with 7 European scientists). This same researcher is the first Spaniard[2] appointed president of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The UC is also participating in instrument development and results analysis for the ALMA Telescope project.

The Astronomy area is also involved in the QUIJOTE, project Consolider EPI coordinated by the IFCA with the participation of physicists and telecommunications researchers from the UC. New lines of research have been developed in the field of Astronomy, through the AGL programme, promoted by the CIC, producing outstanding scientific research.

Through the IFCA, the UC is also a very active member of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) programme of the CERN, which, among other achievements, resulted in the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. This contribution is centred on design, construction (since 1995) and analysis of the data obtained though the CMS project, one of the 2 experiments which study data from the LHC.

The IFCA is now also participating in the International Linear Collider (ILC), and the institute contributed to the discovery of the quark top, as well as the CDF project of the Tevatron accelerator by Fermilab.


In this field, in the last five years the UC has raised 2.5M€, published 213 articles, 122 of these in publications within the first quartile and one of these ranked as the 14th most cited article in all branches of Physics. Researchers are currently working in 4 European projects (one of which coordinated by the UC); in a unit associated with the CSIC and have fulfilled the objective established by the CIC to increase scientific productivity and research funding.

The University of Cantabria is developing research at the highest levels in this area with a focus on optical, magnetic, electrical and structural properties, in particular the study of materials subjected to extreme conditions of pressure, temperature, magnetic fields, etc. Other fields being researched are the domain of nanomaterials and their applications in optoelectronics, storage and energy production or biomedical applications, and so on.

The quality of the results and research carried out by the programme are amply evidenced by the number of patents acquired, publications in the most prestigious international science journals (Nature Materials, Nature Communications, Physical Review Letters, ACS Nano, etc.), invitations to explain the results of the programme at international conferences, prizes won, and presence in national and international science committees of these research group members. 

In the area of Materials Physics, the UC also has a unit affiliated to the CSIC, formed by the Magnetic Materials Group (MAGMA) and High Pressures and Spectroscopy Group (Altas Presiones y Espectroscopia, ALPE) of the UC and the Materials Science Institute of Aragón (Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Aragón, ICMA). 


In this Strategic Area, Mathematics has become a model of scientific research within the UC, both for basic and plied research (20-year contract with Nuclenor and coordination of the national i-Math Consolider project). In fact, in the last 5 years, mathematicians from the UC have published over 250 articles in journals within the scope of the ISI WOK, of which 140 are in the first quartile and 36 in the first decile. Achievements in this area include the refutation of the Hirsch Conjecture by the UC researcher Francisco Santos, garnering the 2012 Humboldt Research Award in Mathematics as well as the Leonardo Torres Quevedo National Research Award for 2010. In Statistical Physics and Meteorology (B2.29), researchers from the UC have participated in 12 European projects in the last five years, including the FAO-MOSAIC project.

CIC has given decisive support to the consolidation of the International Centre for Mathematical Encounters (CIEM), a model of public-private partnership, which in its 8 years of existence has fostered the participation of over 5,000 experts in more than 100 international congresses around the world.

The supercomputing capabilities of researchers provided by the upgraded Altamira Node in 2012 (B2.6) have played a key role in this area. In only the last two years, UC and IFCA researchers have computed some 5million hours of work, enhancing the competitiveness of their research. The Altamira Supercomputer is one of the three most powerful computers in Spain, part of the Spanish Supercomputing Network (RES) and Singular Scientific and Technological Infrastructure (ICTS). This capacity has permitted the participation of the UC in European computation projects such as the Interactive European Grid (coordination) and European Grid initiatives or in the development of the CMS Tier-2 centre for the LHC.