Cosmoparticle Initiative


Jennifer Thomas awarded prestigious Royal Society Research Professorship

9 June 2020

Cosmoparticle Initiative steering group member Professor Jenny Thomas receives the Royal Society’s premier research award to explore neutrinos

Jenny Thomas

Professor Jennifer Thomas CBE FRS is one of six world-class scientists awarded Royal Society Research Professorships, the Society’s premier research awards.

These prestigious appointments provide long-term support for internationally-recognised scientists with exceptional accomplishments, from a range of diverse fields including biochemistry, genetics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science, developmental biology and physics.

Professor Thomas (UCL Physics & Astronomy) was awarded the Royal Society Professorship for her project Peering at neutrino oscillations with a magnifier. Through this work she aims to improve our understanding of neutrinos by building effective and affordable detection instruments. These will be used in a megaton detector array in order to capture enough of these hard-to-detect particles, and to measure their properties with very high precision.

Because neutrinos have a near-zero mass, they are the ultimate cosmic messengers, travelling through space virtually unimpeded at nearly the speed of light – often passing right through Earth without interacting with other particles. Scientists therefore rely on massive detectors, often made of water, where a fleeting flash of Cherenkov radiation can be detected when a neutrino does collide with a nucleon in the water. Professor Thomas’ work could make detectors on the megaton scale a reality and open a new window on the neutrino.

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said: “We are delighted with the six appointments made in this year’s Royal Society Research Professorship competition.”

“The newly appointed Research Professors join a world-class cohort of leading scientists that have and continue to make exceptional contributions to science. This type of investment in world-leading talent is crucial to the continued success of UK science.”