UK backing leading physicist Prof. Mark Thomson to lead CERN

The UK Government has announced its support for the renowned Cambridge University particle physicist Professor Mark Thomson, to be the next Director-General of CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics.

CERN is the world’s foremost international centre for particle physics, giving us incredible insights into the very nature of the universe through work on the Large Hadron Collider, and other experiments of unrivalled depth and scale. Breakthroughs that are made there, like the creation of the World Wide Web, are critical to scientific progress across the board, and have the potential to improve everyone’s lives.

Professor Thomson has exceptional scientific credentials, including more than two decades of experience in working on CERN projects, and a role as UK delegate to the CERN Council.

As the current Executive Chair of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Mark has the experience of successfully leading a scientific organisation of a similar size and budget to CERN.

Professor Mark Thomson said: “CERN is an extremely precious resource, for the whole of humanity. Whoever we choose to lead it will have a profound impact on the choices we make, together, to keep CERN at the forefront of scientific endeavour for decades to come.

“I am running for Director-General because I am committed to keeping CERN at the forefront of exploring the Universe at its most fundamental. I want to bring the whole CERN family together behind a clear vision of the future. This is a huge opportunity for CERN – and for science. I have the scientific credentials, the experience and the vision to lead CERN to an even brighter future, delivering for researchers around the globe, CERN’s remarkable staff and all countries that make up the membership of CERN.”

UK Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, said: “Professor Mark Thomson has made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of particle physics, and to international research collaboration generally, over the course of his stellar career to date.

“From his exemplary track record, to his inspiring plan for CERN’s future, I have no doubt that he is the very best person to keep CERN at the forefront of scientific endeavour.”

The coming years will profoundly shape CERN’s future as the premier international centre for particle physics, as the organisation delivers a major upgrade to the Large Hadron Collider – already one of the world’s most complex and technically sophisticated scientific experiments – and then makes decisions on its next major projects, which will shape CERN for decades to come.

Professor Thomson is one of the most accomplished particle physicists of his generation. Until 2018, Mark was co-spokesperson for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), a colossal experiment based in the US looking into the role of neutrinos in the makeup of the universe. At CERN, Mark played a leading role on the OPAL experiment at the Large Electron-Positron (LEP) collider. He is a Professor of Experimental Particle Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge as well as a Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He has authored or co-authored over 1,100 pieces of peer-reviewed research, and his textbook ‘Modern Particle Physics’ is a staple on undergraduate courses worldwide.

Professor Thomson has a threefold vision for ensuring CERN can rise to this challenge, and keep delivering for all of its members. As Director-General he would develop an ambitious Strategic Plan, that would set out how the organisation will develop and make big investment decisions, over the next five years, and in parallel deliver the exciting scientific opportunities from the upgraded Large Hadron Collider.

Professor Thomson would strengthen the links between CERN and its all of its member states, so that all of the countries which fund CERN – big or small – see the benefits of their involvement. He would also place CERN’s immensely talented staff are at the heart of all of this, building an inclusive culture which supports them all to thrive.

Mark has been a delegate on the CERN Council since 2018, and was a researcher at CERN for six years. He also currently represents the UK as a delegate to the governing bodies of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory, the international astronomy project, and the European Spallation Source, a research facility under construction in Sweden, and so has extensive experience of intergovernmental science organisations and of international diplomacy.

As Executive Chair of STFC, the UK Research Council that provides funding for particle physics, astrophysics, space science and nuclear physics, Mark is currently responsible for an annual budget of about £900 million, and some 2,500 scientific & technical staff.

A vote amongst the CERN member states to choose the organisation’s next Director General, will take place later this year.

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