Neil Turok, the Inaugural Higgs Chair of Theoretical Physics, brings in new focus on the quantum universe

Professor Neil Turok
Professor Neil Turok

Professor Neil Turok, a world-leading researcher in theoretical physics and fundamental cosmology has been appointed as the Inaugural Higgs Chair by the University of Edinburgh. Professor Turok will be joining the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy starting July 2020.

Neil Turok

Neil Turok (PhD Imperial College London, 1983) was Director of Perimeter Institute in Canada from 2008 to 2019. Under his leadership the institute grew into one of the strongest centres for theoretical physics worldwide. Earlier in his career Turok was Professor of Physics at Princeton University and Chair of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge.

Born in South Africa, Turok founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town in 2003. AIMS has since graduated over 2000 students at Masters level and above and has expanded to a network of centres spanning the African continent.

Turok has made numerous contributions to theoretical physics and cosmology. His work is highly original and addresses some of physics’ most profound problems, such as the quantum mechanical formulation of gravity and the nature and origin of large-scale structure, dark energy and dark matter. Much of Turok’s theoretical work connects directly to experiment and observation. He predicted correlations between polarisation and temperature anisotropies of the cosmic background radiation, confirmed by the WMAP and Planck satellites. He helped verify the existence of dark energy through an independent test involving the correlation between galaxies and the cosmic microwave background.

The Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics

The Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics was established in 2012 following the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN, building on the legacy of Peter Higgs and Edinburgh’s outstanding tradition. Its purpose is to promote research excellence in theoretical physics, aiming to answer fundamental questions about Nature by developing new ideas and concepts. Our vision is to create bridges between disciplines and combine graduate-school education in synergy with cutting-edge research. Accordingly, the Higgs Centre has launched highly successful masters programmes in theoretical and mathematical physics. In parallel, the Centre runs a diverse programme of workshops and schools, through which it has established itself as a global focal point in theoretical physics.

Turok’s joining the Higgs Centre will be associated with a considerable expansion of its activities, including new faculty positions and fellowships, details of which will be announced later this year.

New focus on the quantum universe

Turok brings to the Higgs Centre several new and highly promising research directions. This includes an ambitious research programme formulating quantum mechanical theories, in particular general relativity, using real-time path integrals. Turok recently proposed one of the simplest yet solutions to the problem of dark matter in cosmology, in terms of right-handed neutrinos. These research directions and others will see a new level of investment by the University, further enhancing theoretical physics in Edinburgh.

Professor Turok said:

I am deeply honoured to be taking up the Higgs Chair. Theoretical physics is one of science’s most fruitful disciplines: when our ideas work, their impact can be extraordinary. The field stands at an exciting juncture.  A combination of observational advances and theoretical clues are guiding us towards a transformation in our understanding of the universe. The Higgs Centre’s excellent direction and the quality and scope of its programmes, within Edinburgh’s exhilarating setting and its outstanding scientific community, create opportunities to foster and develop brilliant new talent and to make major discoveries.

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh reported:

We are delighted to appoint Neil Turok, one of the world’s foremost theoretical physicists, to our inaugural Higgs Chair. The University of Edinburgh has a proud record in fundamental physics, including the fabulous work of the eponymous Peter Higgs. I am confident that Neil can build on that legacy and lead us to further success.

Professor James Dunlop, Physics and Astronomy Head of School commented:

This is a landmark appointment for the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. Neil Turok is an internationally renowned physicist, also well known for his science outreach and educational work. We are very excited to welcome him to the School and the wider University. Neil will further enhance the already strong international reputation of the School and, with his breadth of expertise and research interests, can help forge new links between different areas of theoretical physics. We also look forward to developing new connections with Africa.

Professor Einan Gardi, Director of the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics said:

We are excited to welcome Neil Turok as the inaugural Higgs Chair. We believe that he will find a natural new home in the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics. His scientific vision, energy and enthusiasm, will help us promote excellence and generate a thriving environment in which a new generation of leading researchers can develop.