Claudia de Rham

2020 United Kingdom Award Winner — Faculty

Claudia de Rham

Current Position:
Professor of Theoretical Physics, Department of Physics

Imperial College London

Theoretical Physics

Recognized for: Developing an innovative mathematical framework that yields a rigorous and viable theory of massive gravity, thereby completing a decades-old quest and profoundly impacting our understanding of many fundamental problems in cosmology and particle physics.

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Theoretical Physics, Cosmology, Particle Physics, Gravity, Quantum Field Theory


MSc, École Polytechnique of Paris, France
MSc, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
PhD, University of Cambridge (Advisor: Prof. Anne-Christine Davis)
Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University, Canada
Joint Postdoctoral Fellow, McMaster University & Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canada
Assistant Professor, Université de Genève, Switzerland
Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University, USA

Working at the interface of cosmology and particle physics, Prof. Claudia de Rham has provided new theoretical perspectives to understand the universe, such as its origin and evolution, its accelerated expansion, and the nature of gravity. Her groundbreaking construction of an innovative mathematical framework yields a concrete and robust theory of massive gravity—the first one since its conceptualization in the 1930s. This theory concerns gravitons, which are hypothetical particles responsible for transmitting gravitational forces. Understanding the nature of gravitons could help elucidate some open mysteries about the universe. For example, astronomers have observed that our universe is expanding at an accelerated speed, but this phenomenon cannot be explained by Einstein’s general relativity theory, which assumes that gravitons are massless. The theory of massive gravity provides one possible solution to this question. It modifies general relativity by granting mass to gravitons. All earlier attempts to construct the theory of massive gravity, however, had failed as they lead to mathematical results contradictory to the observed physical world.

In 2011, de Rham and her collaborators made a breakthrough by constructing a more sophisticated mathematical framework for the theory of massive gravity, completely avoiding the problems of previous versions. She has revitalized and transformed massive gravity into a flourishing research subject, where she is leading the effort to apply massive gravity to tackle various other challenging questions in physics. This work has profound implications for the area of research now dubbed “beyond Einstein gravity”, which includes exploring new types of particles in the universe and connecting the theories of gravity with current and next-generation astrophysics experiments.

"Cosmologists are spacetime explorers pushing the boundaries of our knowledge and uncovering new physics at the interface between particle physics, gravity, and astronomy. As a cosmologist, I am truly honored to receive this Award and would like to thank all my collaborators."

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. Massive Gravity. Living Reviews in Relativity, 2014.
  4. C. de Rham, J.T. Deskins, A.J. Tolley, S.-Y. Zhou. Graviton Mass Bounds. Reviews of Modern Physics, 2017.

Other Honors:

2018Simons Emmy Noether Fellow, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
2018Adams Prize, University of Cambridge
2018Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK Finalist in Physical Sciences & Engineering
2017Simons Grant, Simons Foundation
2017Alumni Award, EPFL
2017Consolidator Grant, European Research Council (ERC)
2016Wolfson Research Merit Award, Royal Society
2013Emmy Noether Fellowship, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
2010Swiss National Science Foundation Professorship


In the Media:

Through the wormhole with Morgan Freeman “Is the Force with Us?" Season 8, episode 1

TEDxCLE Talk 100 year of General Relativity

Die Zeit (German Newspaper) Sie denkt weiter als Einstein

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

Alumnist (the magazine for EPFL graduates) Claudia de Rham, exploratrice de l’Univers

CERN EP (Newsletter of the EP department) Interview with Claudia de Rham

Swiss National Radio – Rencontre avec Claudia de Rham une specialiste du cosmos

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada A moment with Dr. Claudia de Rham

EPFL Women’s day and 50 years of the EPFL