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Dark Matter Map in Galaxy Cluster Bell  Abell 1689 taken from Hubble Space Telescope
Dark Matter Map in Galaxy Cluster Bell Abell 1689 taken from Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA, ESA, D. Coe (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, and Space Telescope Science Institute), N. Benitez (Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, Spain), T. Broadhurst (University of the Basque Country, Spain), and H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University)

Dr Johnson will use his fellowship to search for dark matter. The discovery of dark matter would revolutionise our understanding of the universe we inhabit, and transform research in particle physics, astronomy, and beyond.

He will search for dark matter hidden in a ‘dark sector’ of new particles. Dark sector particles would not interact directly with normal matter, which makes them rather hard to detect. However very weak interactions are possible through so-called ‘portals’.

As part of his fellowship, Dr Johnson will use the data from the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) to search for these portals. Radical upgrades to the LHCb detector, and new data beginning to arrive already this year, will afford game-changing sensitivity.

Dr Johnson will also lead the commissioning of a new experiment, CODEX-b, to lay the foundation for the next generation of dark-matter searches in the 2030s.

Dr Johnson is one of 10 researchers awarded an Ernest Rutherford fellowship as part of a £5.6 million investment by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council. The fellowships both attract outstanding overseas academics to the UK and encourage talented UK-based researchers to remain in the country.

The fellowships provide exceptional researchers from diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to address exciting questions in science over the next five years, such as:

  • Why is the expansion of the Universe accelerating?
  • What was the role of neutrinos at the beginning of the Universe?
  • How can we improve space weather forecasting?
  • How many kinds of neutrinos are there, and what are their masses?
  • What physical and chemical conditions result in the formation of planets?

Since 2011, 94% of fellows who were employed had secured a permanent contract after their fellowship had ended. Since 2014, at least 96% of fellows each year found that their fellowship was essential or very helpful to obtain their current position.


I am proud that the potential impact of my research into dark matter has been recognised with an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship, and I am delighted to be launching this programme at the University of Birmingham. “This significant investment will allow me to establish a new area of research within the UK community of LHCb scientists. I am excited by the sensitivity I expect to have in searching for dark sector particles with the new data, which we hope to begin collecting just a few weeks from now. We know that dark matter is out there, and previous experiments have told us a great deal about what it’s not. We’re hopeful that this research programme will pave the way to a discovery! Whatever the outcome, we’ll be breaking new ground, searching where previous experiments have been unable to look. Dr Daniel Johnson, MIT research scientist