Accessibility statement

Sarah Thompson
Professor, MBE



BSc, PhD (Durham),CPhys, FInstP

Summary of expertise

  • Magnetic thin films and multilayers
  • Spintronics
  • Nanoscale thermal transport


1994 - 1999: EPSRC Advanced Fellowship
1998: British Association Kelvin Lecturer: Designer Magnetic Materials
2000: Institute of Physics Award for Public Awareness of Physics: Is Science Chaotic
2011 - 2017: Head of Physics, School of Physics, Engineering and Technology
2012: MBE for services to Higher Education

2015 – 2019: Vice President of the Institute of Physics (Science and Innovation)

2019-2022: Associate Dean Research Faculty of Sciences

2022: Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor Research

University roles

University roles

Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor Research 2022 –

Faculty of Sciences Business and Industry Engagement lead 2022 -




Research Group: Condensed Matter and Materials Physics

Research Interests

As a member of the Condensed Matter Physics Group, my main research interests lie in magnetic thin films and multilayers, spintronics, and nanoscale thermal transport. At the heart of spintronics is the electron - the ultimate nanomagnet. Consequently, an electron travelling through a magnetic material or in a magnetic field notices the magnetism and is affected by it. Working on the nanoscale it is possible to manipulate the electron with magnets and nanoscale magnetic materials and thereby design new functional magnetic materials with practical uses and to explore the underpinning physics. In contrast to our advanced understanding of electronic transport, understanding of nanoscale thermal transport is in its infancy, limiting our ability to manage heat flow on the nanoscale. There are fundamental challenges in understanding the role of quantum size effects, interfacial resistances and the interplay of phonon and electronic thermal transport. Coupled with these theoretical challenges, there are few methods of experimentally measuring thermal properties with spatial resolution. We have helped to develop thermally sensitive atomic force microscopy (SThM) at York capable of measuring temperature with nanoscale resolution. SThM is a branch of the more mature technique of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), which has been used to resolve molecular structure at sub-nanometer scale using an atomically sharp tip. In SThM, the conventional AFM tip is replaced with a thermal probe that is similar to a conventional AFM probe but with a thermally-resistive thermometer thin film deposited at the end of the tip. Hitherto this technique has been qualitative and it is our goal to extract quantitative information to advance the understanding of nanoscale thermal transport.


  • Thermal atomic force microscopy as a tool for studying nanoscale electronic properties.

School of Physics, Engineering and Technology
University of York
YO10 5DD
Tel: +44 (0)1904 322252
Fax: +44 (0)1904 322214
Room: P/CE05



  • BSc and MPhys Projects on Thermal Atomic force Microscopy
  • I have previously taught a range of modules on thermal physics, solid state physics and magnetism as well as Year 2 Experimental Laboratory and tutoring Year 1 and year 2 modules.

Other teaching

  • Outreach lectures on: Designer Magnets, Electronics in a Spin and SeeINfra red

External activities


  • Institute of Physics Nominations Committee
  • Fellow Institute of Physics
  • Member IEEE

Editorial duties

  • EPSRC College Member since 2003