The Particle Cosmology group at the University of Illinois explores the connections betwen the universe's workings on its largest and smallest scales. We develop and employ “readout systems” for the cosmic laboratory: instruments to help tease out the signatures of new fundamental physics from astrophysical messengers. Recent efforts have focused on measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the afterglow of the hot early universe.

Our group’s research touches upon a broad range of topics. Our science goals bridge the domains of cosmology and high-energy physics. Our instrumentation uses cutting-edge technologies developed in condensed matter and engineering labs, including superconducting detectors and millimeter-wave optics. Our data analysis involves large-scale computing and simulation efforts. Our instruments can operate at the ends of the Earth, deep underground, or at the edge of space. Students develop a wide variety of skills in a collaborative environment while addressing some of the highest-profile questions of modern cosmology..

Current and Past Research


SPIDER is an ambitious balloon-borne instrument seeking evidence of primordial gravitational waves in the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). SPIDER completed a 16-day long-duration balloon flight over the Antarctic ice in January 2015 (launch video), mapping ~12% of the sky at 95 and 150 GHz. The data are under analysis, and development is underway toward a second flight (2017-18).

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The BICEP program employs compact refracting telescopes to make the deepest (lowest-noise) maps to date of CMB polarization on degree angular scales. BICEP2 observed from the South Pole for three years, culminating in a 2014 detection of B-mode polarization (since ascribed to galactic dust emission). The Keck Array, BICEP3 (shown), and the upcoming BICEP Array continue this program with ever-more-sensitive instruments observing at multiple frequencies.

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There is now abundant evidence that the bulk of the universe's matter is in some dark form, not found the Standard Model of particle physics. The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search seeks to detect the interactions of particle dark matter in terrestrial detectors, which are operated at millikelvin temperatures in an ultra-low-radioactivity environment deep underground.

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Our Team

Jeffrey Filippini

Assistant Professor of Physics, Astronomy
Ph.D. Berkeley, 2008
405 Loomis Lab

CV . Publications . Homepage . Antarctica Blog

Teaching: Phys 150 (F17, S17, F16), Phys 213/4 (S16), Phys 211 (S15)

Riccardo Gualtieri

Postdoctoral Scholar
Ph.D. Roma Sapienza 2016
494 Loomis Lab

Ben Osherson

Physics Ph.D. Student
A.B. Physics 2014, Princeton
494 Loomis Lab

Asad Khan

Physics Ph.D. Student
B.S. Physics 2015, U. Minnesota
494 Loomis Lab

Elle Shaw

Physics Ph.D. Student
B.A. Physics 2016, Greenville College
494 Loomis Lab

Jianyang Fu

Class of 2018

Robert Gramillano

B.S. Physics/Astro 2016, UIUC
494 Loomis Lab

Alex Navarre

Class of 2018

Aaron Smothers

Class of 2018

Alumni and Visitors

Harshil Kamdar

B.S. Physics/Astro 2016, UIUC
now Ph.D. student, Harvard

Lunan Sun

Physics Ph.D. Student, UIUC
B.S. Physics 2015, UIUC

Emma Western

REU Student 2016
University of St. Thomas

Derek Glenon

UIUC Class of 2018

Recent News

  • April 4, 2017: The SPIDER collaboration has released a preprint of the first scientific result from the 2015 flight: a new upper limit on circular polarization of the CMB: arXiv:1704.00215.

  • November 5, 2016: Professor Filippini delivered a public lecture, The Hidden Universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy, as part of the Saturday Physics for Everyone series.
  • November 1, 2016: The SPIDER project has been renewed for a second flight in 2018! SPIDER is funded by NASA and by the Canadian Space Agency.
  • June 16, 2016: Professor Filippini hosted Astronomy on Tap Champaign-Urbana, giving a talk about dark matter at Pizza M.
  • Feb. 2, 2016: The SPIDER test cryostat has arrived at U of I in preparation for SPIDER-2 receiver work.
  • Jan. 20, 2016: The BICEP2/Keck 95+150 GHz paper has been published as an Editor's Choice in Physical Review Letters.

  • Nov. 22, 2015: This Thanksgiving we give thanks that SPIDER has begun her long trip back to the States, thanks to heroic recovery efforts in Antarctica this week by Ed Young (Princeton Ph.D. student) and the British Antarctic Survey!
  • Oct. 30, 2015: New results from Keck Array (95+150 GHz) and BICEP2 (150 GHz) set the most stringent limits to date on primordial gravitational waves. This is the first polarization-only constraint that surpasses that from the CMB temperature anisotropies: arXiv:1510.09217.
  • Aug. 14, 2015: Our group has been awarded its first external research funding: a NASA Strategic Astrophysics Technology grant, in collaboration with Caltech/JPL!
  • Mar. 9, 2015: The BICEP2/Keck Array/Planck joint analysis has been published as an Editor's Choice in Physical Review Letters.
  • Feb. 4, 2015: SPIDER's data disks have been recovered from the ice by members of the British Antarctic Survey! Data analysis will shortly begin in earnest.
  • Jan. 1-18, 2015: SPIDER has completed its first science flight over Antarctica! See story in Caltech News.

Selected Publications


J.M. Nagy et al., "A New Limit on CMB Circular Polarization from SPIDER", arXiv:1704.00215, accepted to appear in Astrophys. J. (2017)

J.E. Gudmundsson et al., "The thermal design, characterization, and performance of the Spider long-duration balloon cryostat", Cryogenics 72, 65 (2015)

A.S. Rahlin et al., "Pre-flight integration and characterization of the SPIDER balloon-borne telescope", Proc. SPIE 9153 (2014)

A.A. Fraisse et al., "SPIDER: probing the early universe with a suborbital polarimeter", JCAP 04, 047 (2013)

D.T. O'Dea et al., "Spider optimization II: Optical, Magnetic and Foreground Effects", ApJ 738, 63 (2011)


P.A.R. Ade et al., "Measurement of Gravitational Lensing from Large-Scale B-Mode Polarization", ApJ 833, 228 (2016)

P.A.R. Ade et al., "Improved Constraints on Cosmology and Foregrounds from BICEP2 and Keck Array Cosmic Microwave Background Data with Inclusion of 95 GHz Band", PRL 116, 031302 (2016)

P.A.R. Ade et al., "BICEP2 / Keck Array V: Measurements of B-mode Polarization at Degree Angular Scales and 150 GHz by the Keck Array", ApJ 811, 126 (2015)

P.A.R. Ade et al., "A Joint Analysis of BICEP2/Keck Array and Planck Data", Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 101301 (2015)

P.A.R. Ade et al., "BICEP2/Keck Array IV: Optical Characterization and Performance of the BICEP2 and Keck Array Experiments", ApJ 806, 206 (2015)

P.A.R. Ade et al., "BICEP2 III: Instrumental Systematics", ApJ 814, 110 (2015)

P.A.R. Ade et al., "BICEP2 II: Experiment and Three-Year Data Set", ApJ 792, 62 (2014)

P.A.R. Ade et al., "BICEP2 I: Detection of B-mode Polarization at Degree Angular Scales by BICEP2 ", Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 241101 (2014)

Technology Development

P.A.R. Ade et al., "Antenna-coupled TES bolometers used in BICEP2, Keck Array, and SPIDER", Astrophys. J. 812, 176 (2015)


R. Agnese et al., "Silicon detector results from the first five-tower run of CDMS II", Phys. Rev. D88, 031104(R) (2013)

Z. Ahmed et al., "Dark matter search results from the CDMS II experiment", Science 327, 1619 (2010)

Z. Ahmed et al., "Search for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles with the First Five-Tower Data from the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search at the Soudan Underground Laboratory", Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 011301 (2009)

Media and Outreach

Professor Filippini is an organizer of Astronomy on Tap Champaign-Urbana, and hosted a discussion of dark matter on June 16, 2016.

Professor Filippini is a presenter for "Whys Guy Wednesdays", part of the Morning Show on WCIA3 TV, Wednesday mornings at 9:30.

Our lab members have been featured in...

Saturday Physics for Everyone - "The Hidden Universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy" (Nov. 2016) (YouTube)

The Big Picture Science radio show and podcast (Jan. 2015)

Scientific American (Nov. 2014)

Contact Us

Our lab is part of the Department of Physics in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Group office: 494 Loomis Lab
Laboratory: 497 Loomis Lab
Shipping address: MRL Shipping and Receiving, 104 S. Goodwin Ave., Room 190N, Urbana, IL 61801

We are always looking for new group members! Contact Professor Filippini (jpf@illinois.edu) if you're interested in joining our team.