Claudia de Rham

2018 United Kingdom Award Finalist — Faculty

Claudia de Rham

Current Position:
Reader in Theoretical Physics, Department of Physics

Imperial College London

Theoretical Physics

Recognized for: Revitalizing the theory of massive gravity, which revolutionized our understanding in the nature of gravity and the fundamental evolution of the universe.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise:  Theoretical Physics, Cosmology, Particle Physics, General Relativity, Mathematical Physics


BEng, Physics, École Polytechnique of Paris, France
MS, Physics, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
PhD, Theoretical Cosmology, University of Cambridge, UK (Advisor: Prof. Anne-Christine Davis)
Postdoc, McGill University, Canada (Advisor: Prof. Robert Brandenberger)
Postdoc, McMaster University & Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canada (Advisors: Prof. Cliff Burgess, Prof. Justin Khoury)
Assistant Professor, Geneva University, Switzerland
Assistant Professor and Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Reader, Imperial College London, UK

Dr. de Rham has revitalized the theory of massive gravity, one way of modifying general relativity by endowing the graviton – the particle that transmits gravitational force – with a nonzero mass. Such a theory, dating back to the 1930s, could help solve the open puzzles of cosmology, like the late time cosmic acceleration without using an unknown matter component dubbed “dark energy.” But since the 1970s, the early versions of the massive gravity theory had been known for their dangerous pathologies, including a ghost mode and a discontinuity with general relativity in the limit where the graviton mass goes to zero. In 2010, with collaborators, Dr. de Rham completed a 40 years old quest for solving such problems by constructing a nonlinear theory of massive graviton which is ghost free and theoretically consistent. This body of work continues to define the field beyond Einstein's gravity and cosmology. After this breakthrough, Dr. de Rham has further established a very promising direction that is likely to lead to a well-grounded effective quantum theory of massive gravity. It is already clear that this extended theory has interesting applications to cosmology and astrophysics: it can help tackle the cosmological constant problem and may describe the accelerated expansion of the universe as a purely gravitational effect, with the role of dark energy being played by massive gravitons. Her work has revolutionized our understanding of the fundamental evolution of the universe and the quantum nature of gravity.

“Cosmology addresses some of the most fundamental questions mankind has ever been faced with: The origin of our universe, its composition, its evolution and its fate. While most of the evolution of the universe is understood with a remarkable precision, the origin of its current accelerated expansion remains one of the most puzzling observations and may be the first hint of new physics to be investigated.”

Key Publications:

  1. C. de Rham, G. Gabadadze. Generalization of the Fierz-Pauli action. Physical Review D, 2010.
  2. C. de Rham, G. Gabadadze, A. J. Tolley. Resummation of Massive Gravity. Physical Review Letters, 2011.
  3. C. de Rham, G. Gabadadze, L. Heisenberg, D. Pirtskhalava. Cosmic Acceleration and the Helicity-0 Graviton. Physical Review D, 2011.
  4. C. de Rham. Massive Gravity. Living Reviews in Relativity, 2014.

Other Honors:

2018 Perimeter Institute Visiting Fellow
2017 EPFL Alumni Award
2017 ERC Consolidator Grant
2017 Nominated for best Tutor at Imperial College London for Student Academic Choice Awards
2016 Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award
2013 Emmy Noether Fellowship from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

In the Media:

New Scientist - Dark energy is mutating, with grave consequences for the cosmos
Through the wormhole with Morgan Freeman, “Is the Force with Us?" Season 8, episode 1
Swiss National Radio - Rencontre avec Claudia de Rham une specialiste du cosmos
Imperial College News - Expanding horizons: throwing new light on dark energy
Swiss National Television - L’astrophysicienne lausannoise Claudia de Rham effectue des recherches sur l’univers et la gravitation à Londres
L’Hebdo, (Swiss Magazine) - La scientifique suisse qui relativise Einstein
Die Zeit (German Newspaper) - Sie denkt weiter als Einstein
Physics World - Might gravity have mass?
TEDxCLE Talk - 100 year of General Relativity
Le Monde (France) - La relativité générale à l’épreuve des tests
Nature - Fat gravity particle gives clues to dark energy
Swedish Populär Astronomi - Tyngre tyngdkraft tar oss bortom Einstein (Heavier gravity takes us beyond Einstein)
Royal Astronomical Society of Canada - A moment with Dr. Claudia de Rham
Wright Colloquium Series, Switzerland - Public talk in honor or the 100 year of General Relativity