2018 Michael Faraday Medal and Prize

Professor Jennifer Thomas of University College London for her outstanding investigations into the physics of neutrino oscillations, in particular her leadership of the MINOS/MINOS+ long-baseline neutrino oscillation experiment.

2018 Michael Faraday Medal and Prize Jennifer Thomas

Professor Jennifer Thomas’ contributions to the study of neutrino oscillations, in particular her leadership of the MINOS experiment, put her into the rarefied international cohort of those who shape the field of particle physics. The subject of the 2015 Nobel Prize, neutrino oscillations remain the only observation outside the scope of the Standard Model of particle physics, a theory often described as the most successful theory ever devised.

MINOS was one of the seminal oscillation experiments that pioneered the now gold-standard approach to measuring oscillations. With two identical detectors, MINOS confirmed that accelerator neutrinos, a well controlled source, change type as they travel, an observation that demands that neutrinos have mass. MINOS also ushered in an era of precision, providing world-leading measurements of neutrino and antineutrino transition probabilities. These precision measurements underpin the design of current experiments, and the analysis techniques developed for MINOS inform the analyses of those experiments’ data. As a measure of MINOS’ impact, the experiment boasts five famous and renowned papers, papers with more than 250 citations.

With her initial organisation of intellectual contributions to the experiment, Professor Thomas ignited a renaissance in neutrino physics within the UK. She was one of a handful of people who orchestrated the formation of the collaboration, worked to secure funding, then designed and built the detectors. She led the experiment to its first measurement, and as the experiment’s first analysis coordinator, she was responsible for setting the priorities of the experiment. In 2010, Professor Thomas was elected co-spokesperson.

During her tenure, she proposed a new phase of the MINOS experiment, dubbed MINOS+, to take advantage of the unique opportunity to measure the full energy dependence of the oscillation probability, thereby studying the validity of the 3x3 oscillation framework. Exotic models, in particular those involving theoretical sterile neutrinos, predict distortions in the oscillation probability at higher energies. To date, MINOS+ sees no evidence of such distortions, setting strict limits on mixing with sterile neutrinos.

Professor Thomas’ technical ability, vision, and tenacity make her an outstanding experimental particle physicist, truly deserving of the Faraday Medal in experimental physics.

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