Evelyn Thomson
Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
4N16B David Rittenhouse Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania
209 South 33rd Street, Philadelphia PA 19104-6396

Professor Evelyn Thomson has performed experiments at e+e- and hadron colliders at particle physics laboratories around the world. Her research interests include precision measurements of the W boson mass at ALEPH, precision measurements of top quark properties at CDF, and searches for physics beyond the standard model at ATLAS.


Ph.D. Experimental Particle Physics, University of Glasgow, 1998,
Measurements of the W boson mass from semileptonic WW events with the ALEPH detector.

B.Sc.(Hons) First Class, Physics, University of Glasgow, 1995.

Research Awards

CV & Publication List

Research Interests

In 1995, she started her research as a graduate student at the University of Glasgow with the ALEPH experiment at the CERN Large Electron Positron (LEP) collider, near Geneva, Switzerland. She studied W+W- pair production and performed measurements of the W boson mass in the WW->lvqq channel. The W boson is one of the particles that carries the weak nuclear force, essential for the nuclear fusion reactions that power stars, and was discovered in 1983 at CERN. The W boson acquires mass in the standard model of particle physics via a Higgs boson. Interpretation of improved measurements of the W boson mass in the context of the standard model of particle physics led to a better constraint on the mass of the much-hunted and exceeding elusive Higgs boson, giving a useful clue for where and how to search for it. The Higgs boson was finally discovered by proton collider experiments at CERN much later in 2012!

In 1999, as a postdoctoral fellow with the Ohio State University, she joined the CDF collaboration at the Fermilab Tevatron proton anti-proton collider, near Chicago. She successfully commissioned the extremely fast track (XFT) processor. The XFT made extensive use of parallel processing and pipelining in Programmable Logic Devices to reconstruct charged-particle tracks in time for the first-level trigger in every proton anti-proton collision - a first at a hadron collider. At the heart of the CDF trigger system, which tackled the challenge of choosing the few hundred most interesting events to save for analysis from the one million seven hundred thousand head-on collisions between bunches of protons and bunches of anti-protons each second, the XFT was essential for the Top, Exotic, Electroweak and B physics programs at CDF. The top quark is by far the most massive of the sixteen known fundamental particles, and has approximately the same mass as a gold nucleus (which contains about 197 nucleons). Intrigued by the possibility that the unexplained large mass of the top quark could be due to effects from physics beyond the standard model, she developed and supported a versatile analysis package used by most physics analyses in the CDF Top Quark Physics Group. She measured the pair production rate of top quarks at CDF in the ttbar-> lvqqbb channel with an advanced multivariate technique, featured here in the Fermilab result of the week. She has continued to support the combination of several CDF and D0 results.

In 2004, she moved to the University of Pennsylvania as a tenure-track assistant professor, promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2010. In recognition of her research on CDF, she was named an Outstanding Junior Investigator by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2005 and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in 2006. From April 2004 to April 2006, she was co-leader of the CDF Top Quark Physics Group, which consisted of over 100 active researchers, including over fifty graduate students from universities in the U.S. and abroad. She worked with postdoctoral researcher Dr. Aafke Kraan to analyze the angular distribution of the decay products of the top quark. Dr. Kraan won a Marie Curie Fellowship in 2006 from the European Union. In relation to the search for the standard model Higgs boson at CDF in the WH->lvbb channel, she worked with postdoctoral researcher Dr. Chris Neu on the first measurement of W + b-jet production. Dr. Neu advanced in 2009 to a tenure-track assistant professorship at the University of Virginia. With graduate student Justin Keung, she worked on improved b-jet identification and a search for WZ->lvbb production. Dr. Keung advanced to a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto in 2010.

In 2007, she joined the ATLAS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). With postdoctoral researchers Dr. James Degenhardt and Dr. Sasa Fratina and graduate students Dominick Olivito, Elizabeth Hines, and Brett Jackson, she has contributed to the commissioning of the ATLAS detector's transition radiation tracker. ATLAS started collecting proton-proton collisions in 2009, and Jim was ATLAS data-taking shift leader at the time of the first collisions. The Higgs boson discovery was announced in July 2012, see here for plots and event displays. Our physics interests are direct searches for physics beyond the standard model, including new massive vector bosons (W' and Z') decaying to leptons, and for an anomalous rate of production of lepton pairs (e+e+, e-e-, mu+mu+, mu-mu-, e+mu+, e-mu-) with the same sign of electric charge (same-sign dileptons) in exotic models (doubly charged Higgs), and supersymmetry (direct gaugino production). With the end of ATLAS Run 1 in 2012, Jim started at Ford Capital Management in Michigan, Sasa moved to Vienna, and Dominick advanced to a postdoc at UC San Diego on the CMS experiment at the LHC. Liz and Brett are continuing to search for supersymmetry in the Run I data...

For a nice general introduction to the Large Hadron Collider, read these articles:
Scientific American, February 2008, National Geographic, March 2008

For information on the LHC accident in September 2008, see this Nature article and the 20-page executive summary at the start of this report LHC PROJECT REPORT 1168

Conference Talks

Department Colloquia

Teaching at University of Pennsylvania

Other useful links

Evelyn J. Thomson