An $8 million gift from the Leinweber Foundation will expand opportunities for students and faculty from the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics to study fundamental questions in particle physics and the evolution of our universe.

In recognition of the gift, the center, which is located in LSA’s Department of Physics, will be renamed the Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics.

The gift will provide resources to attract top physics talent, expand research, and better understand theoretical physics, including elementary particle theory and cosmology.

The endowment also establishes the Leinweber Fellows program in LSA’s Department of Physics and provides support for conferences, visiting faculty and fellowships for students studying theoretical physics.

The Leinweber Foundation is led by Michigan-based software entrepreneur Larry Leinweber and Claudia Babiarz of Bloomfield Hills.

“I’ve always been fascinated by scientific discoveries, including research around the origin and scope of the universe we exist in,” Leinweber said. “The complex work being done at the center is made possible at the U-M and other leading research centers because of the talented researchers whose curiosity and commitment lead them to answering complicated, abstract questions.

“With this gift, the Leinweber family wants to help the university continue to attract talented students and provide faculty with enhanced resources to make groundbreaking discoveries. The university will also share their discoveries with the public through community engagement and outreach.”

“The Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics acts as a discovery hub where questions about some of science’s most fascinating and complex questions are answered,” said LSA Dean Andrew Martin. “The foundation’s gift will enable researchers to better understand the composition of our universe and share exciting new knowledge with the public.”

The Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics promotes excellence in theoretical physics research through workshops, conferences and seminars. Students and faculty at the center explore new findings through research and collaboration to promote discoveries in astrophysics, particle physics, cosmology, string theory and gravitation, among other topics.

“The Leinweber Foundation’s gift will allow the physics department to grow in its support of the best young theorists in the country,” said Bradford Orr, physics chair, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of physics. “This support is crucial for the advancement of science and production of the next generation of researchers. These are very exciting times in physics and the Leinweber Foundation has helped push Michigan to the forefront.”

In recent years, the center has brought more than 2,000 national and international experts to the Ann Arbor campus for meetings on diverse topics ranging from the Higgs boson, a fundamental discovery in particle physics, to the study of cosmic microwave background — the afterglow of the Big Bang.

“The Leinweber Foundation’s gift enables the center to continue to promote excellence in theoretical physics. Their gift will be essential in attracting the top young talent to Michigan and empowering cutting-edge discoveries in exciting, fundamental directions,” said Aaron Pierce, director of the Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics.

“It also allows Michigan to remain a nexus for conferences and workshops — a place where leading physicists gather to discuss breakthroughs and generate new ones. We’re so grateful for this generous support,”

Since 2010, Leinweber and Babiarz have supported students and programs at LSA, the College of Engineering, and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. They created the Leinweber Software Scholars Program at CoE, which provides scholarships to undergraduate students in computer science by creating a society of software scholars at U-M.

Beyond philanthropic support, Leinweber also advises the Campaign Committee at CoE, and they both serve as members of the Victors for Michigan National Campaign Leadership Board.