2015 Maxwell medal and prize

Dr Clare Burrage, University of Nottingham, for her contributions to dark energy research, in particular to the development of methods of testing for fifth forces from astrophysical probes through to atom interferometry experiments.

Dr Clare Burrage

Clare Burrage has pioneered the development of searches for dark energy in terrestrial laboratory experiments and astrophysical observations. 

Dark energy is the mysterious substance driving the expansion of the universe to accelerate today. Previous attempts to study dark energy have focused on observing the evolution of galaxies over the largest possible distance scales. Burrage has shown that we can learn about dark energy, and the way it interacts with other particles, on much shorter distance scales, and even that it is possible to design laboratory experiments to detect and study the dark energy field.

She has an outstanding breadth of expertise spanning quantum field theory, cosmological perturbation theory, collider phenomenology, axion searches and cold atom techniques. By bringing these diverse topics together to understand the behaviour of dark energy, Burrage has been able to determine the best current constraints on a variety of different ways in which dark energy can interact with matter and electromagnetic fields. She has developed new tests for dark energy using observations of light from astrophysical sources that give the best current bounds on the strength of the coupling of dark energy to photons. These tests are now part of the standard tool-kit to search for dark energy. She has also provided the best current constraints on the coupling of dark energy to matter from an analysis of the effects of dark energy on precision atomic measurements.

Her recent work has proposed an ambitious new experiment to search for the effects of dark energy using atom interferometry. Her collaboration with the Centre for Cold Matter at Imperial College London means that this experiment is already under development, and has a realistic chance to confirm or exclude the most popular dark energy models before larger and more expensive cosmological surveys.