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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory


John Richer is an astrophysicist with expertise in the field of star formation, with a particular in interest in radio and submillimetre observations of young stars and protostellar systems.  During his career, he has held a Junior Research Fellowship at Queens' College, Cambridge; a Royal Society University Research Fellowship,  and he is currently  Professor of Physics in the Astrophysics Group at the Cavendish Laboratory.  Early in his career, he has also spent two years working in industry as a professional software engineer working on some of the first object-oriented CAD modelling systems. 

John started his research work in 1988 using the then newly-opened James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii, a telescope which revolutionised  the detailed studies of star formation in cold gas in the Galaxy, and the origin of the earliest galaxies in the distant Universe. He carried out some of the first extensive submm continuum surveys of the local molecular cloud population, locating and characterising the structure of cold gas and protostars in these regions, and constraining theoretical models of their gravitational collapse.  He also pioneered some of the early detailed studies of protostellar outflow sources,  measuring their energetics and so narrowing down the range of possible outflow generation models.   

From 2000-2011 John helped develop and lead the UK community's scientific contribution - as the UK's first Project Scientist - to  ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array project.   ALMA is a $1.4 billion international project on a very high altitude site in northern Chile; it comprises a 50-element submillimeter aperture synthesis interferometer,  providing  high-resolution images and spectra which have completely transformed our understanding of star and galaxy formation in the local and very distant Universe, and yielded a rich spectral database which has revolutionised studies of the chemical evolution of the Universe.  As well as the general programmatic aspects of ALMA, John worked on the development of the critical phase correction techniques via water vapour radiometry which allow ALMA to correct the imaging errors caused by atmospheric turbulence. 

From 2013 to 2019, John held the role of  Director of Undergraduate Education in Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory, leading  all aspects of the education of the 1000 students  in the  four years of our undergraduate and MASt courses in Physics. In recognition of this, he was awarded a University Pilkington Prize for his teaching contributions and leadership in 2018. 

Publications list available at:

Recent CV including publications:

Personal webpage:

External links: 



ALMA description:




Star formation: surveys of molecular gas for young protostars;  the physical structure of molecular clouds; nature of gravitational collapse;  protostellar discs and outflows; submillimetre interferometry in astrophysics. 


Galactic Centre


Key publications: 

Complete List of  Publications

John Richer's publications can be found in his CV linked above, and at

Emeritus Professor of Physics
Emeritus Fellow in Physics at Downing College
Professor John S Richer

Contact Details

Email address: 
Battcock Centre for Experimental Astrophysics
Cavendish Laboratory
JJ Thomson Avenue


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