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Biographies of Council Members

Members of Council have provided the following short biographies of themselves.

 

President 

JOHN C. ZARNECKI (G) 

MA, PhD, FRAS, FInstP, CPhys. Director (part-time), International Space Science Institute, Switzerland & Emeritus Professor of Space Science, The Open University. RAS Council 1995-1998, RAS Vice-President 2009-2011; Institute of Physics Council 2013-2016; PPARC Council 2005-2009 ; Chair, ESA Solar System & Exploration Working Group 2014-2016 ; Chair, UK Space Agency Science Programme Advisory Committee 2012-2014.

Special interests: Planetary science especially the study of surfaces, atmospheres, comets, cometary dust & cosmic dust by in-situ instrumentation (e.g. Giotto, Huygens, Rosetta). Space & science policy, education and public outreach.

 

President (Elect)

MIKE CRUISE (A)

BSc, PhD, FRAS, FinstP, C Phys, University of Birmingham: Emeritus Professor ( 2012-present), Professor of Astrophysics and Space Research (1995-2012), Pro-Vice Chancellor (2002- 2009), Head of School (1997-2002), Rutherford Appleton Laboratory: Associate Director , Space Science ( 1993-1995 ), Division Head Astrophysics and Geophysics (1989-1993) Astrophysics Group Leader (1986- 1989), University College London, Mullard Space Science Laboratory: Deputy Director ( 1985-1986), Lecturer (1979-1986), Research Assistant (1972-1979), Research Student (1968-1971).

Special interests: Gravitational Waves, General Relativity and Gravitation, Space Instrumentation.

I have served on RAS Council as Secretary, Councillor, Senior Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President- this wide range of roles giving me a good understanding of the structure, challenges and opportunities for the Society. As Treasurer from 2011 to 2016 I led the restructuring of the publications contracts, increasing the income by over 50%, and played a strong role in revising the Bye Laws to bring the Society in line with modern organisational standards. The RAS performs many functions in support of Astronomy and Geophysics but it faces very important challenges. I believe that my experience on Council would enable me to contribute to the Society’s growth and development.

Through service on many Research Council committees (Astronomy Grants Panel Chair, Chair of Space Science Programme Board, Chair of Science Programme Advisory Committee), work for government departments (Advisor to two House of Commons Select Committees) and contributions to international organisations (European Space Agency, Cospar, NASA) I have experience of engaging with a range of scientists, policy makers and the science media, as well as government bodies themselves.

We are entering an era in which the RAS will need to support its membership by strong advocacy for science in a political and economic environment that will be difficult. The complexity of Brexit will make life uncertain for our members (in the UK and abroad) and we need to champion their careers and their science. It is crucial for the RAS to promote the importance and benefits of fundamental science, and especially Astronomy and Geophysics, in public policy debates. My commitment to the RAS over many years and my experience of working with universities and government equip me to make a serious contribution to the future challenges facing the Society and its members.

 

Vice-Presidents

HIRANYA PEIRIS (A)

BA/M.Sci (Cambridge), PhD (Princeton). FRAS, Member Institute of Physics, American Astronomical Society, American Physical Society. Professor of Astrophysics, University College London, Hubble Fellow (2004-2007), STFC Halliday Fellow (2007-2012). STFC Computing Advisory Panel, DiRAC Resource Allocation Panel (2012-2014), WMAP Science Team (2002-2006), Planck HFI Core Team (2009-), LSST DESC Collaboration Council (2015-).

Special interests: Theoretical and observational cosmology; cosmic microwave background; large scale structure; early universe theoretical physics; stellar dynamics; galaxy evolution; statistical methods; numerical methods and supercomputing.

 

YVONNE ELSWORTH (G)

BSc PhD (Manchester) FRS, FRAS, FInstP. Poynting Professor of Physics and Professor of Helioseismology at University of Birmingham. RAS Council (1993 – 1996 and 2011 – 2014) Vice President (1996 – 1998), RAE 2008 and REF 2014 sub-panel member. Many years of interaction with Research Council committees. Awarded the Payne-Gaposchkin medal of the Institute of Physics. Elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2015. 

Special interests: My research interests are in the seismology of the Sun, and stars like the Sun is or will, in time, become. Solar data as gathered by the Birmingham-led BiSON network are providing fundamental insights into the working of the Sun. I am particularly interested in the development of the solar cycle and what it may tell us about the dynamo within the Sun. For stars, the Kepler mission has provided truly beautiful datasets that will keep us busy for many years. For the first time, we can make observations of the interiors of a wide range of stars and can do statistical studies of the evolution of our galaxy.

 

CHARLES BARCLAY (A)

BSc. Hons. (St Andrews). FRAS, FRSA, Associate of Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors. Director Blackett Observatory (2004-) and Head of Astronomy at Marlborough College, Wiltshire (1997-). RAS Council (2012-2015), RAS 200 steering committee (2012-), RAS International Committee (2014-) Chair of RAS Education and Outreach Committee (2009-2016) Academic visitor in Oxford Astrophysics sub-department (2005-). Associate Fellow Green Templeton College, Oxford (2012-), Chair of Examiners GCSE Astronomy (2009-), Principal Moderator Extended Project Qualification (2007-). IAU Commission C1 (Education and Development). British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad Committee and UK Team leader and International Board Member for International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (2015-).

Special interests: Education and Outreach for all ages and backgrounds. Promotion of public access to observatories and use of astronomical data sets for secondary-level research. Observational astronomy by eye. Archaeoastronomy and the communication of astronomical ideas and information pre-writing.

I have worked as a full-time teacher for 26 years following 3 years in London banking. Since renovating the ex-Radcliffe 10” Cooke telescope at Marlborough, I have been determined to maximize outreach there and lecture to diverse groups from cubs and explorer scouts to home educated, U3A, WI and to visiting students from Europe and Asia. I also reach a significant audience whilst lecturing annually for Cunard on Trans-Atlantic crossings. I helped design Kielder Observatory in Northumberland, the winning entry in the 2005 RIBA Open competition. Most recently I co-led the UK Astronomy Olympiad team to 6th place out of 42 countries competing. As Chair of the RAS Education and Outreach committee, I helped to initiate and launch 3 new annual awards; The Patrick Moore Medal for teachers, the Annie Maunder Medal for outreach and annual Presidential certificates for the top 12 GCSE Astronomers and persuaded Council to earmark a fund specifically so the Committee can award grants within the Education and Outreach field. I regularly contribute to local BBC radio on upcoming astronomical events. I believe the Society has a pivotal role to play in harnessing the current level of interest among the public and that publicity and the media are key to further engagement. Politicians need to be under pressure from their constituents, especially in the area of light pollution, the effects of which I see as the scourge of our age, preventing as it does generations in urban areas from experiencing our connection to space. I have an equal interest across the whole spectrum of the Society’s research areas and, if elected, I will champion an inclusive Society that represents and supports the interests of all its membership, both in UK and overseas and especially those of junior researchers. I also see the need to consistently monitor and update our methods of communication, especially to reach potential young members, for example through social media.

 

IAN CRAWFORD (G)

BSc (UCL), MSc (Newcastle), PhD (UCL), FRAS. Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology, Birkbeck College, London. RAS Council (2007-2017): G Secretary (2007-2011), Senior Secretary (2011-2017). President of the Society for Popular Astronomy (2006-2008). Member, European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC; 2008-2014) and ESA’s Human Exploration Science Advisory Committee (HESAC, 2014-).

Special interests: Planetary science (especially lunar geology); astrobiology; space exploration; astrophysics (especially the interstellar medium); public understanding of science.
My research is mainly focussed on lunar science and exploration, including both remote-sensing observations and laboratory studies of lunar samples. Currently I am investigating what the lunar geological record can tell us about the galactic environment of the Solar System, thereby directly linking astronomy with lunar geology! In addition, I have long-standing interests in astrobiology, especially 'extreme' environments on Earth that may be analogous to past or present habitable environments on Mars. I came to planetary science from an earlier (roughly 1988-2003) career in observational astronomy, and am therefore well-connected with both the planetary science and astronomical communities represented by the RAS.

I have served as an RAS Secretary for the last ten years where I have been responsible for organising the meeting programme, assessing RAS grant applications, and assisting in policy development. I now wish to build on this experience to help the Society contribute to meeting a number of future scientific and societal challenges. These include the need to ensure that public policy remains grounded in rational, evidence- based, decision making; doing what we can to mitigate the negative effects of Brexit, and other government policies, on the communities that we represent; strengthening diversity and inter-disciplinarity within our communities; and ensuring that the wider public is aware of, and excited by, discoveries in planetary science, astronomy, and geophysics. I am passionately committed to all of these goals and will work towards them as an RAS Vice-President.

 

Treasurer

NIGEL M. BERMAN (A)

Investment Banker, Financial Consultant. Special Interests: I left scientific research over 25 years ago, so I cannot claim special interests. In my post-doctoral research at Amsterdam and Sussex I was a theorist with particular interest in processes producing soft x-rays.

 

Secretaries

MANDY BAILEY (A)

B.Sc., Ph.D. student, Astrophysics Group, Keele University. Publicity Officer, Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA). Chairman, Shropshire Astronomical Society (SAS).

Special interests: Structure and dynamics of the Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds: mapping the tiny structures in the diffuse interstellar medium, using Diffuse Interstellar Bands (DIBs) to trace molecular material in the cold and diffuse interstellar medium.

 

LYNDSAY FLETCHER (G)

B.Sc. Ph.D., Reader in Solar Physics, University of Glasgow.

Special interests: Solar magnetism and activity, solar flares, particle acceleration. Secretary, Solar Physics Division of the European Physical Society, Editorial Board of Solar Physics, Member IAU Commission 10 on Solar Activity.

 

MARK LESTER (G)

B.Sc. Ph.D., FRAS, Professor of Solar-Terrestrial Physics at the University of Leicester, RAS Council (1988 - 1991), RAS Vice-President (1991 - 1993), Member of Finance Committee (2000 - 2003), RAS Award for Services to Geophysics (2014).

Special interests: Magnetospheric and Ionospheric Physics, Ionospheric Dynamics, the Plasma Environment of Mars, Space Weather at Earth and Mars.

In addition to a broad scientific background with wide ranging scientific interests, I have a wealth of experience of organising projects, for example leading the SuperDARN project, management of people and involvement in planning as Head of Department for 6 years, and planning and co-ordinating scientific meetings. If elected, I believe my experience would be invaluable in all the roles required of the Geophysics secretary. In particular, I would endeavour to provide an attractive and stimulating science programme of G Discussion meetings for RAS members as well ensuring that all areas of the RAS remit are represented. I would also bring my experience to RAS Council in the broader range of activity required of Council members.

 

Councillors

MICHAEL BODE (A)

BSc (Leeds), PhD (Keele), FRAS, CPhys, FInstP, Professor of Astrophysics and Director, Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University. Previous positions held include PDRA (Keele), Post-Doctoral Staff Member (Los Alamos National Lab), SERC Advanced Fellow (Manchester), Lecturer/Senior Lecturer/Professor (Central Lancashire) and I have been Assistant Provost for Research and held a PPARC/STFC Senior Fellowship at LJMU. Special Interests: Multifrequency observations and modelling of novae and related objects; circumstellar and interstellar dust; automated and robotic observing; astronomy education and public engagement.

 

PAUL A. DANIELS (A)

BSc (Hons), PhD, FRAS; Director, Qsoft Ltd (1992-present), Committee (2008- present) and President (2012- present) of the Guildford Astronomical Society.  

Special interests: Solar system, orbital dynamics, asteroids and the orbits, structure & evolution of comets. Science education and public outreach.

 

BRAD GIBSON (A)

BSc, MSc, PhD, FRAS, Professor of Astrophysics and Director, E.A. Milne Centre for Astrophysics, University of Hull.

Special interests: Galactic archaeology, galactic chemical evolution, nucleosynthesis, stellar populations.

  

CAITRIONA JACKMAN (G)

BSc, PhD, FRAS, Associate Professor of Space Physics/STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southampton.

Special interests: Planetary and astrophysical magnetospheres, Solar system science, physics and astronomy outreach, women in physics.

 

SHEILA PEACOCK (G)

BSc, PhD, CPhys MInstP, FGS, FRAS; British Geophysical Association (BGA) Committee 1999-2011, 2014-present; RAS Council 2012-14; Ocean Drilling Program Working Group on Drilling the Seismogenic Zone, 1997-9.

Special interests: I am a geophysicist with a PhD in seismology and twelve years' experience as a university lecturer (1991-2002). At present I work for a government contractor as a seismologist involved in monitoring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. I serve the BGA Committee as awards officer, having previously been Meetings Secretary, then Secretary.

 

STEPHEN SERJEANT (A)

BSc, DPhil, FRAS, FHEA, FInstP, CPhys. Head of Astronomy and Reader in Cosmology, The Open University. Co-lead of eMerlin gravitational lensing legacy survey and AGN working group of Herschel ATLAS key project; several other management/leadership roles in JCMT surveys and Euclid. Co-winner of Daiwa Adrian prize. Lead science consultant for BBC Bang Goes The Theory; consultant for BBC Stargazing Live. Author of Observational Cosmology (CUP) and co-author of two other books.

Special interests: Infrared and submillimetre extragalactic surveys, strong gravitational lensing, active galaxies, starburst galaxies, public engagement, higher education.

 

GIOVANNA TINETTI (A)

MSc and PhD in theoretical physics (University of Turin, Italy), Royal Society URF, FRAS. Professor of Astrophysics at University College London. Served on TAC panels Hubble and Spitzer, ESA EPRAT and STFC Exoplanet panels. Co-editor AAS-DPS ICARUS journal. NASA and ESA Research fellow in Caltech/JPL and IAP Paris. Awarded the Institute of Physics Moseley medal in 2011. 

Special interests: Since 2007, I coordinate a research team on extrasolar planets at UCL, trying to understand the chemical composition of planets in our Galaxy, how do they form and evolve and why they are so diverse. My research and my team are currently mostly funded by the Royal Society and by the European Research Council (programme ExoLights).

 

MICHAEL G. WATSON (A)

MA (Oxon.), MSc (Sussex), PhD (Leicester), FRAS, Professor of High Energy Astrophysics, University of Leicester & Head of X-ray and Observational Astronomy (XROA) Research Group; ESA's XMM-Newton Survey Scientist (1996-); Principal Investigator for the international XMM-Newton Survey Science Centre Consortium (1996-2013); ESA Astronomy Working Group (1996-2000); AstroGrid Lead Investigator for Leicester (2001-2009); STFC Astronomy Grants Panel (2010-2012); STFC Computing Advisory Panel (2010-2013); Chair of STFC DiRAC Oversight Committee; LSST:UK Consortium Board (2014-); Coordinator for the UK Team for ESA's Athena Mission (2014-). 

Special interests: Space astronomy, high energy astrophysics, Galactic and extra-galactic X-ray source populations, X-ray surveys, AGN population studies, astronomical computing, large-scale scientific data processing and archives.

 

MEGAN ARGO (A)

PhD (Manchester), FRAS, MInstP; Lecturer in Astronomy (UCLan); Organising committee for IAU commission C2, Communicating Astronomy with the Public.

Special interests: Radio astronomy; starburst galaxies; AGN; public engagement; science education; meteors; science policy.

I am an active researcher and new lecturer, with a passion for communicating science and extensive international experience. My training is in the field of starburst galaxies, but my research covers everything from Galactic star formation to high-redshift quasars, using high-resolution radio techniques to complement other wavelengths. I currently serve on the council of the Society for Popular Astronomy in the UK, and was recently appointed as the President of Shropshire Astronomical Society.

I have committee and organisational experience in various contexts, having headed the outreach efforts of an academic group in Australia, worked as a Project Scientist for an FP7-funded project in the Netherlands, and serving on the organising committee for a local festival in the UK. I also have a strong interest in the interaction between science and policy, participating in the Royal Society’s Week in Westminster scheme in 2016, and closely following developments as we move towards an exit from the EU with as-yet unquantified implications for research funding and international mobility.

As a member of the C2 organising committee I am already working to promote the benefits of engagement, measure the impact of engagement, and to encourage best practise within the international astronomy community. I am keen to encourage good-quality outreach activities by students and other early career researchers, and to push for more consistent recognition of such contributions in the academic world, an area where the RAS can show strong leadership. If elected I will argue for an outward-looking society that interacts effectively with both politicians and the general public, and as a new lecturer I will be a strong voice for early-career academics.

 

MARK WOODLAND (A)

Undergraduate in Astrophysics, Outreach Astronomer.
RAS Fellow (2013-present), Open University Student (2006-present), NHS Systems Developer (2014- present), Wells & Mendip Astronomers Committee member (2013-present), Project Lead – Charterhouse Exoplanet Project (2015-present), Charterhouse Observatory Manager (2015-present), Lunar Mission One Outreach (2016-present), TWINKLE Outreach (2015-present), GlamSCI Blogger (2016-present).

Special interests: Exoplanets, observational astronomy, amateur astrophysics, compact stellar remnants, STEM outreach, Space flight, planetary sciences.

I am a massive advocate for amateur involvement in astronomy and space sciences. As an undergraduate with the Open University and therefore distance learning, I do not get as much exposure to professional research as other students might. This has been the main driving force behind the professional projects that I have involved myself with. I feel very strongly that outreach plays a vital role in the future of STEM subjects and I try, at every point, to share my passion of the sciences with who-ever I come across, and in whatever setting I find myself.

Following the practical difficulties of completing my GCSE Astronomy course at school, and when I found myself in a position to run an observatory, I founded the Charterhouse Exoplanet Project. Its aims are to engage school pupils and amateurs in real, current astronomy research. Using the 18” telescope housed at the site, I run practical observing sessions for people of all ages and backgrounds. Myself and a small team having recently completed renovated on the instrument, are now looking to move into the next stages of our outreach program.
I have been involved with the Wells & Mendip astronomers since late 2013, and have been a member of the committee for the same period of time. They have a very strong following of members, and a broad calendar of outreach events for the public.

The RAS is one of the most influential groups of professionals, students and amateurs in the astronomical community. I put myself forward for this position not only to be able to have more of an active involvement with the society, but also to be able to share what experience I do have of being an amateur, and represent those who are in a similar position to me. Further to that, it would be an invaluable experience, to be able to help the society in its continued work in astronomy and geosciences.

 

STEVE MILLER (G)

BSc, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Science Communication and Planetary Science, University College London, PPARC Solar System Science Advisory Panel (2000-08) (chair 2004-08), Science and Society Advisory Panel (1997-2005), RAS Councillor (2011-14), Chair RAS200 Advisory Group (2013-), Member ERC Astronomy Fellowship Panel (2012-), Founder Member and Board, Europlanet European Planetary Science Network /Project (2002-).

Special interests: My research covers areas such as astro-chemistry and astronomical spectroscopy as well as (exo-) planetary sciences, particularly in the study of giant planet atmospheres. I also have a keen and active research interest in science communication and public engagement, which – through my connections with organisations like the international Public Communication of Science and Technology network and the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Education Center in Hawai’i – has an international scope to it.

These are troubling times for the scientific community in general, and astronomy and geophysics, in particular. The Royal Astronomical Society represents some of the most international – indeed, universal – of all sciences. But we live in a period of growing nationalism and scepticism towards international collaboration. We also face challenges to our finances with increasing demands for Open Access publishing and – potentially – to the benefits that our charitable status brings to us. So it is essential that the RAS present an outgoing and confident face to promote the sciences that we hold dear, to embed them as firmly as possible in the affections of our fellow citizens, and to engage with policy-makers whose actions can influence the climate in which we work. And we are facing the perfect opportunity to do so with our fast-approaching bicentenary (in 2020).

Over the past few years, the RAS has become a much more professional and effective organization in terms of the way it serves its Fellows and the way in which it presents itself externally. For our immediate community, one key programme that we have is the RAS Fellowship scheme, which – whilst it can never hope to replace government funding through the Research Councils – demonstrates the Society’s commitment to young astronomers and geophysicists at a time when funding for them is in short supply: we put our money where our mouth is. For our fellow citizens, I believe the RAS200 Outreach and Engagement scheme, which I helped to establish when I was last on RAS Council, shows the Society’s commitment to bringing our sciences to groups and audiences that would not otherwise have any involvement with astronomy or geophysics – hard-to-reach young people, adults who missed out on education the first time around, and people whose caring commitments make it hard to think of anything but day-to-day existence.

If elected onto Council, I would ensure that the RAS continue and expand its representation of, and care for, its own scientific community at all levels. I have previous experience as a three-year Councillor, and I now have even more time to devote to the RAS since my retirement from UCL at the end of last year.

 

CLARE E. J. WATT (G)

BSc (Aberdeen), PhD (Cantab), FRAS, Lecturer in Space Environment Physics, University of Reading, Chair of Division III (Magnetospheric Processes) of the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, IAGA (2015-present).

Special interests: Magnetospheric Physics, Solar System Science, and Numerical Experiments.

Throughout its 200-year history, the Royal Astronomical Society has promoted astronomical science in the UK through a range of activities: the dissemination of new scientific results, the recognition of scientific achievement in astronomy, solar system science and geophysics, the preservation and curation of key historical archives, and in the promotion of our science to all. I have been a member of the RAS since 1999 and would like to become Councillor to serve a community that has inspired me. My background is in magnetospheric physics, in both numerical experiments and observational studies. In addition to scientific expertise, I have experience in the organisation of scientific meetings both nationally and internationally, as well as experience in outreach to schools. The role of the Council is to realise the aims of the Society, and I would like to explore how we can maintain and extend the main activities of the RAS. Given our diverse and geographically extended membership, I would like to investigate the benefits of holding more frequent scientific meetings outside of London. In the sea of competing scientific publications, I would like to persuade more of our colleagues to consider RAS publications to disseminate their latest results. I believe that the RAS could investigate the use of interactive online platforms to promote astronomy, solar system science and geophysics in the UK, engaging the public in astronomical events and scientific news stories wherever they live. Many of our members have innovative methods and materials that inspire non- specialists in astronomy and geophysics, and I would like to find ways we can share these ideas and resources to best promote our science. The network of people in the Royal Astronomical Society is its major strength, and my aim would be to help all members benefit from our shared passion and expertise.