Awards, Medals and Prizes
Winners of the 2014 awards, medals and prizes - full details
On Friday 10 January the Royal Astronomical Society announced the recipients of the Society’s medals and awards for 2014. The prizes honour individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to astronomy (designated below with ‘A’) and geophysics (‘G’). The awards will be presented at the 2014 National Astronomy Meeting, which will be held in Portsmouth in June.
Professor David Southwood, President of the RAS, congratulated the winners: "It gives me great pleasure to announce these medals and awards, prizes that recognise the contributions made by astronomers and geophysicists both in the UK and around the world. The recipients encompass long-established researchers and those just starting out in their careers, whose work ranges from attempting to understand the processes that shape the Earth to developing models that describe the evolution of the Universe. My congratulations to everyone."
Click on any of the images of the winners (where available) for larger versions.
Past winners include Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Arthur Eddington and Stephen Hawking. Since 1964 two have been awarded each year: one for astronomy, and one for geophysics.The Society's highest honour is its Gold Medal, which is awarded for extraordinary lifetime achievement.
Gold Medal in astronomy is awarded to Professor Carlos Frenk FRS, Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics at the University of Durham.The
Prof. Frenk is one of the originators of the Cold Dark Matter theory for the origin of galaxies and cosmic structures in the universe. Principally through the use of large computer simulations, Prof. Frenk and his collaborators have pioneered many of the developments which have resulted in the cold dark matter model becoming accepted as the standard paradigm for structure formation.
His many other contributions to cosmology include the execution and analysis of large galaxy redshift surveys, most recently the Anglo-Australian Two Degree Field Redshift Survey. Prof. Frenk’s leadership skills have been instrumental to the success of the Durham University Institute for Cosmological Computation, which is now acknowledged as a world class centre for theoretical cosmology. He has raised the international profile of UK astronomy and assisted the careers of a generation of young researchers.
Prof. Frenk has co-authored more than 300 scientific papers and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2004.
Gold Medal in geophysics is awarded to Professor John Zarnecki, of the Open University.The
Prof. Zarnecki has been involved in space research for over 30 years. He has been part of the instrument teams – often as Principal Investigator – for many ground-breaking, novel instruments, as well as the associated analysis and interpretation of the resulting data. Prof. Zarnecki is part of the team responsible for the Huygens lander that touched down on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
At a distance of 1.5 billion kilometres from Earth, Huygens holds the world record for a long-distance landing, and Prof. Zarnecki’s penetrometer was the first instrument to take readings on Titan’s surface. Typical of his ability to communicate with the general public, Prof. Zarnecki quipped that this surface was like "crème brulée".
At the start of his career, Prof. Zarnecki’s focus was on X-ray astronomy, establishing that supernova remnants were an important source of cosmic X-rays. His work at British Aerospace led to the production of the Faint Object Camera, Europe’s contribution to the Hubble Space Telescope that became the longest-serving camera in space in 2002. He led the Dust Impact Detection System team for the Giotto encounter with Comet Halley and later with Comet Grigg-Skjellerup. Prof. Zarnecki’s instrumental developments are now being used for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars programme.
Prof. Zarnecki has given long and distinguished service both to the European and – more recently – to the UK Space Agencies. Prof. Zarnecki served as part of ESA’s Senior Review Committee, charged with selecting the scientific themes that would form the basis for the L2 and L3 launches in 2028 and 2034, respectively. He now chairs the Solar System Exploration Working Group, a tribute to his wide-ranging interests in the science of our Solar System.
Eddington Medal is awarded for investigations of outstanding merit in theoretical astrophysics, and goes to Professor Andrew King, of the University of Leicester. Prof. King has a long and distinguished career in the field of accretion disc theory, describing how matter moves in the presence of strong gravitational fields. This model describes situations ranging from two stars in a close binary system to the supermassive black holes found in distant galaxies.The
More recently he has made major contributions to the topic of intermediate mass black holes. These objects, if they are proved conclusively to exist, would fill a gap between the binary system black holes of up to about 10 times the mass of the Sun, and the supermassive black holes lying at the core of galaxies, with billions of times the mass of the Sun.
On a different topic Prof. King has also significantly advanced our understanding of the nature of feedback-driven galactic winds. His work on momentum and energy driven winds has broad implications for the physics of accretion processes within active galactic nuclei, as well as for aspects of the evolution of galaxies.
Price Medal is for investigations of outstanding merit in solid earth geophysics, oceanography or planetary sciences, and is awarded to Professor Seth Stein, Deering Professor of Geological Sciences at Northwestern University.The
Prof. Stein has a 35-year history of ground-breaking achievements in Earth sciences of global importance in numerous fields including plate tectonics, seismology and space geodesy. In addition to an extraordinary plethora of service on international committees, he is an outstanding teacher, with much of his influence having been through his popular graduate-level geophysics textbook, Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure.
Perhaps one of his most influential recent scientific contributions has been his decade-long project to investigate intra-continental deformation and its relation to continental seismicity, focusing initially on the New Madrid zone in the Mississippi river valley in the United States. His observations led to a new model for intra-continental earthquakes and of aftershock productivity, changing our views of earthquake risk to the general public.
Prof. Stein’s model is currently being tested by studies of several regions, notably in China, Australia and northwest Europe, and is rapidly gaining widespread acceptance. In addition to his geophysical research, he takes a keen interest in communicating his science through popular science books and on how to improve earthquake-hazard mitigation policies.
Herschel Medal recognises investigations of outstanding merit in observational astrophysics. It is awarded to Professor Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany and the University of California, Berkeley, USA.The
Prof. Genzel’s research spans both galactic and extragalactic astrophysics. He and his group made pioneering observations to map the motions of stars close to the Galactic centre, leading to firm evidence for the existence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and to an accurate estimate of its mass.
Subsequent research by Prof. Genzel’s group has demonstrated the unusual mass-spectrum and geometry of stars at the centre of the Galaxy and to the discovery of infrared flares that are thought to arise from gas close to the inner accretion disc of the black hole.
Prof Genzel has made numerous contributions to our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution, where he has led the development and exploitation of near and far infrared spectroscopy and high resolution imaging.
Prof. Genzel has received many prizes and awards, including the 2003 Balzan prize for his work on infrared instrumentation and the 2008 Shaw prize. He has co-authored nearly 400 refereed papers.
Jackson-Gwilt Medal is awarded for the invention, improvement or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques; for achievement in observational astronomy; or for achievement in research in the history of astronomy. The medal is awarded to Professor George Fraser, Director of the Space Research Centre at the University of Leicester.The
Prof. Fraser’s innovative technical developments have been central to many of the X-ray missions over the last three decades, several of which are still in orbit, working well and producing unique data on the high energy Universe.
One example of his innovative skills is the so-called "lobster-eye" concept applied to X-ray imaging. This is the basis of instruments proposed for several future space missions. His influence has been felt at many levels, and he has written a widely used textbook on X-ray detectors. Professor Fraser has also successfully bridged the gap between academia and industry. His contributions have played a major role in what has been recognised as a 'Golden Age of X-ray astronomy'.
Chapman Medal is awarded for single investigations of outstanding merit in solar-terrestrial physics, including geomagnetism and aeronomy. The medal goes to Professor Louise Harra, of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London.The
Prof. Harra has been responsible for much excellent and far-reaching research in solar physics, especially in the exploitation of extreme-UV and X-ray spectroscopy and solar plasma diagnostics to understand the active solar atmosphere. Since September 2006, she has been Principal Investigator of the UK’s EUV Imaging Spectrometer on the Hinode satellite mission, and has taken a leading role in exploiting its observations.
This award is made primarily in recognition of her significant advances in using EUV spectroscopy to understand large-scale solar flows, dynamics and eruptions. This includes the spectroscopic detection and characterisation of large-scale coronal waves, and outflows of hot plasma from the corona following coronal mass ejections.
Particularly notable is her identification of the likely source of the slow solar wind, opening a new channel for understanding its production. She sets her discoveries in the context both of the emergence and evolution of solar magnetic fields, and of space weather. In doing so, she provides a rounded view of the dynamic links between the solar magnetic field and the heliosphere.
Prof. Harra also looks to the bigger picture to discover how related research areas can be engaged, and collaborates widely. Her leadership has assured prominent roles for the UK on forthcoming missions such as ESA’s Solar Orbiter.
The Fowler Prizes are for individuals who have made a particularly noteworthy contribution to the astronomical and geophysical sciences at an early stage of their research career, normally within 10 years of their PhD.
Fowler Prize in astronomy goes to Dr Joanna Dunkley, of the University of Oxford.The
Dr Dunkley has played a leading role in a number of high profile experiments measuring anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background. These include the NASA WMAP satellite, the Atacama Cosmology Telescope and most recently, the ESA Planck satellite. A key characteristic of Dr Dunkley’s research is her application of advanced statistical techniques to complex data. In addition to her work on CMB anisotropies Dr Dunkley has done influential work on Galactic emission, clusters of galaxies and fluctuations in the infrared background.
Fowler Prize in geophysics goes to Dr Alex Copley, of the University of Cambridge, in recognition of his innovative studies of how the lithosphere deforms.The
Dr Copley uses seismic, geologic and geodetic data sets to test quantitative dynamical models of continental deformation, and he has made especially important contributions to our understanding of the geodynamic evolution of the Himalaya-Tibet collision zone.
In using satellite geodesy (InSAR) and seismology to constrain earthquake models, Dr Copley has been able to extract important information about lithospheric strength, rheology and continental stress fields. In studying seismic focal mechanisms within Tibet he has been able to constrain the extent of under-thrusting and argue successfully against the previously influential idea of a low viscosity channel in the Tibetan crust.
His recent analysis of the Bhuj earthquake has placed a new and important constraint on the stress field within the Indian lithosphere as part of a comprehensive analysis of the force balance on the Indian plate. At an early stage of his research career, Dr Copley has made some outstanding contributions to our understanding of lithospheric stress and deformation.
Winton Capital Awards
Funded by the Winton Capital Investment House, the Winton Capital Awards are for the post-doctoral researcher in a UK institution whose career has shown the most promising development, no more than 5 years after the completion of their PhD.
Winton Capital Award in astronomy goes to Dr Benjamin Joachimi, of University College London.The
Dr Joachimi's work already spans a range of topics in cosmic shear research, from high-precision measurement of covariance matrices, through new measures such as three-point functions and magnification, to mitigation of systematics. In particular he has already established himself as a world leader in the subject of galaxy intrinsic alignments, whose effect would ruin the promise of lensing for cosmology if ignored.
Dr Joachimi has proposed a comprehensive suite of methods for removing this potential problem from cosmology analysis of weak lensing, he has measured the effect in data, and he has carried out in-depth numerical predictions using simulations. Furthermore he leads a thriving group on Intrinsic Alignments for the Euclid space mission.
Winton Capital Award in geophysics goes to Dr Chris Davies, of the University of Leeds.The
The award is in recognition of the impact of his contributions to studies of the core geodynamo responsible for maintaining the Earth’s magnetic field. Dr Davies is a computational geophysicist who has investigated the effects, for example, of how conditions at the core-mantle boundary can influence the geomagnetic field structure.
Dr Davies has also used the results of the computations to identify palæomagnetic observations with which to test computational geodynamo models. Recently Dr Davies drew out the implications for the geodynamo of recent ab initio material property calculations that showed that the thermal conductivity of the outer core is 2-3 times greater than previously accepted values. Among these implications are the difficulty of finding sufficient energy to maintain the geodynamo over the lifetime of the geomagnetic field, and the conclusion that the top of the outer core must be stably stratified. This is a seminal contribution that will stimulate studies of the earth’s deep interior for some time to come.
The Group Achievement Award for achievement by a large consortium in astronomy is given to the Herschel-SPIRE Consortium.
This consortium is led by Professor Matt Griffin of Cardiff University. The Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) consortium was responsible for the design, construction and delivery of this bolometer-based instrument as part of the instrument suite for ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory. The Herschel satellite was launched in 2009 and operated very successfully for 4 years, thereby exceeding its design lifetime.
By virtue of its unparalleled sensitivity and unique capabilities, the results obtained using SPIRE have been felt across a broad swath of astrophysics and in particular in detailed studies of star formation in the local Universe and extending out to very distant objects. Because of the long wavelengths at which SPIRE operates it is able to penetrate the veil of dust that obscures our view of these regions in visible light. As a measure of its importance, by summer 2013 more than 500 refereed scientific publications had used SPIRE data.
The fantastic success of Herschel-SPIRE is a fitting tribute to all those scientists and engineers who have contributed to the project over many years. The impact of observations obtained using SPIRE will continue to influence and advance astrophysics well into the future.
Group Achievement Award for achievement by a large consortium in geophysics is given to the Magnetometer Team for the Cassini spacecraft.The
The Cassini-Huygens mission to the Saturn System is a joint NASA, European Space Agency and ASI venture and one of the most successful ever undertaken. After a cruise of 7.5 billion kilometres, Cassini went into Saturn insertion orbit on July 1, 2004, when it flew through the gap between the F and G rings. It was designed to operate for just 5 years, but is still going strong, and now scheduled to last until 2017, when it will fly through Saturn’s upper atmosphere before plunging into the kronian depths.
The Magnetometer has been one of the most successful instruments aboard the spacecraft, continuously returning data about the fields in the peri-kronian environment, through the ringed planet’s bow shock and magnetopause and deep inside its magnetosphere. One of the key findings of Cassini – and one of the most unexpected and scientifically challenging – was that the small, icy moon Enceladus is pouring a jet of water into Saturn’s magnetosphere. This finding is a direct result of the efforts of the Magnetometer Team and its Principal Investigator, Professor Michele Dougherty.
Prof. Dougherty and her team noticed unusual magnetic field patterns as the spacecraft flew by Enceladus, and persuaded the entire mission team that this required further close fly-bys. The result was the discovery of the Enceladus jet, now understood to be the main source of plasma inside Saturn’s magnetosphere. As a result, we now understand that Enceladus must harbour vast quantities of water in its interior, making it – along with Mars and the icy moons of Jupiter and Titan - potentially habitable (though not necessarily inhabited). The Magnetometer has also revealed Saturn’s magnetosphere to be an “intermediate environment”, between Earth’s Sun-driven and solar-wind-fed magnetosphere, and that of Jupiter, where internal Jupiter-system drivers dominate both the dynamics and the sources of plasma.
The Magnetometer Team have played a critical role from the beginning of the Cassini-Huygens mission and will be there right until the end.
Service Award honours an individual who, through outstanding or exceptional work, has promoted, facilitated or encouraged the sciences of astronomy, geophysics, or solar-system sciences and developed their role in the life of the nation, often beyond the requirements of their paid position. It is given to Professor Mark Lester, Professor of Solar-Terrestrial Physics and Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester.The
During a productive scientific career of over 30 years, Prof. Lester has given outstanding and selfless service to the UK and international solar-terrestrial physics community through representation, advocacy and leadership – including vice-Presidency of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1991 to 1993, serving on the PPARC Astronomy Grants Panel as a member and then Chair for a decade from 1997 to 2007, and member of various other high-level committees within PPARC, STFC, NERC, ESA, NASA, and the UKSA.
Perhaps his greatest service has been his contribution to, and leadership of, the ground-based ionospheric radar community nationally and internationally, initially with the European Incoherent Scatter Radar Association, including Chair of the EISCAT Project Committee from 1992 to 1995, and subsequently with the international Super Dual Auroral Radar Network as PI of two UK SuperDARN radars. Here his extraordinary service and leadership is exemplified by his personal involvement on 111 of the 551 SuperDARN papers published to date and has culminated in him being leader of the SuperDARN Executive Council since 2003. During this time he has overseen SuperDARN more than doubling in size to a $20m asset comprising 32 radars operated by 15 PI groups in 8 countries, serving over 2,000 registered users, and still growing.
The Patrick Moore Medal is awarded for a particularly noteworthy contribution to astronomy or geophysics by secondary school level teachers e.g. by significantly improving examination results, running an active outreach programme or engaging students in extra-curricular projects. It is given to Miss Hayley Flood, of Coopers Technology College, for work at the Long Eaton School.
The Long Eaton School is a key school in the Leading Space Education Programme. Miss Flood is one of 13 designated Lead Educators in Astronomy in England and works alongside the Institute of Physics and European Space Agency. As part of this role she has led master class sessions for other astronomy and physics teachers, and presented regularly at Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) conferences.
Miss Flood was pivotal in securing funding from the Wolfson Foundation to help build and commission a purpose-built observatory in Long Eaton (The Malcolm Parry Observatory) featuring a 16-inch Meade telescope with solarscope, allowing for both regular and solar observation. From the time when the observatory was dedicated in January 2012 until she moved to another school in the summer of 2013, Miss Flood selflessly worked to help bring fantastic events to the school such as Star Gazing Live and observing the 2012 transit of Venus, as well as setting up and running an astronomical society and an astronomy club.
She has delivered many successful events for wider community groups including Cubs/Brownies, primary and secondary schools, in addition to working with her own students. Miss Flood successfully inspired and engaged young and old alike with her infectious enthusiasm for astronomy.
The Society invites distinguished speakers to give its major 'named' lectures.
Gerald Whitrow Lecture, held biannually on the philosophy of cosmology, will be given by Professor Ofer Lahav, Perren Chair of Astronomy, at University College London.The
Prof. Lahav has made pioneering contributions to cosmology by using novel statistical techniques to exploit galaxy survey data, and has played influential leadership roles in observational cosmology. His early work established for the first time that the Milky Way is moving towards nearby concentrations of galaxies, and he quickly realised that these galaxy flows could be used to measure the density of the universe.
Prof. Lahav played a leading role in extracting science from the 2dF galaxy redshift survey, introduced sophisticated tools for galaxy classification, and began a long-running interaction between cosmology and particle physics constraints on the neutrino mass. He was key in developing galaxy photometric redshift determination, which is now a cornerstone of cosmological surveys. He began the idea of comparing and combining constraints from different cosmological probes, which is now at the heart of current thinking.
Furthermore, he played a crucial role in the early stages of the Dark Energy Survey project, which has recently started its five year observational program, with its science team led by Prof. Lahav. He also makes time for broader initiatives: investigating the origins of current ideas in cosmology, collaborating with artists and mentoring generations of young cosmologists.
George Darwin Lecture, on a topic in astronomy, cosmology or astroparticle physics, will be given by Professor James Dunlop FRSE, of the University of Edinburgh.The
Prof. Dunlop has played a leading role in transforming our understanding of how galaxies form. He has pioneered new fields of study and then established them as mature areas of research, often by leading major new observational programmes. The first systematic study of quasar host galaxies was carried out by Professor Dunlop, and he went on to discover that their basic properties are indistinguishable from their inactive counterparts.
He has demonstrated that the most massive radio galaxies and black holes formed before most of their lower mass counterparts, an effect known as 'downsizing'. Through his leadership on age-dating galaxies, he provided the first evidence that massive galaxies formed at redshifts greater than 5. He took sub-millimetre astronomy from its infancy, through developments in instrumentation with the SCUBA camera on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, to establish the basic properties of star-forming galaxies shrouded in cosmic dust, and has played key roles in studying the formation of the very first galaxies.
The Harold Jeffreys Lecture, on a topic in solid Earth geophysics, will be given by Professor Alex Halliday of the University of Oxford.
Prof. Halliday is a geochemist who specialises in the determination of isotope abundances in terrestrial and planetary materials including samples from the Moon, Mars and asteroids. He is a world leader in his field, who has been instrumental in the development of new analytical techniques to investigate isotope systems that were previously poorly understood.
His research topics range from the timing and nature of the origin of the Earth-Moon system, to the sources and evolution of different geochemical reserves in Solar System bodies. Such efforts have important implications for the history of the Earth, understanding for conditions for the onset of life in the Solar System and have implications for the likelihood of finding Earth-like planets amongst the numerous exoplanetary systems.
On top of these outstanding research contributions, Prof. Halliday is an excellent public speaker who communicates his science very well to both the astronomy and geophysics communities. He recently was the main organiser of the 2013 'Origin of the Moon' meeting at the Royal Society, which generated widespread media interest about understanding our planet’s origins and early evolution. Prof. Halliday always presents his cutting-edge science in a very accessible and entertaining manner.
The James Dungey lecture, in solar, solar-terrestrial or planetary physics, will be given by Professor Sandra Chapman of the University of Warwick.
Prof. Chapman has made outstanding contributions to our understanding of the solar wind and the magnetosphere. Among her many achievements, she has led landmark research on turbulence in the solar wind and nonlinear dynamics in the magnetotail.
Her research career is strongly interdisciplinary, spanning space and laboratory plasma physics, climate and neuroscience. She contributed to the data analysis and modelling of turbulence both in space and magnetically confined fusion plasmas, as well as focussing on wave-particle interactions, plasma acceleration and heating.
She has demonstrated a strong commitment to engaging with the general public, most recently through a project exploring how scientific ideas can be communicated through art. She is an outstanding speaker who can draw on the application of nonlinear and complex systems concepts to a wide variety of fields, even outside physics.
Honorary Fellow of the Society. This is typically in recognition of services to astronomical and geophysical sciences such as distinguished leadership of a school, observatory or laboratory; outstanding services to national or international scientific organizations; exceptionally important work in editing scientific publications; influential work in education and public outreach in these sciences; or specially outstanding distinguished work in the history of these sciences.The RAS may honour any person eminent in the fields of astronomy or geophysics by election as an
Professor Alain Omont, of the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, is Research Director of the Centre Nationale de la Résearch Scientific (CNRS). Prof. Omont has worked tirelessly in support of IRAM, GMRT, ALMA and other interferometric facilities. He is a key figure in the exploitation of ESA's Herschel mission. Honorary Fellowship is conferred in recognition of his immense contributions to the field of astronomy during the last 50 years.
Professor Roberta Humphreys, of the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy has been one of the key figures in the study of massive evolved stars. Her studies of these luminous evolved stars demonstrated the existence of an empirical upper luminosity boundary in the HR Diagram and by implication an upper limit to the masses of stars that could evolve to become red supergiants. Honorary Fellowship is conferred to mark her distinguished work in astrophysics.
Professor Joshua Frieman, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, and member of the Theoretical Astrophysics group at Fermilab. Freiman's research centres on theoretical and observational cosmology, including studies of the nature of dark energy, the early Universe, gravitational lensing, the large-scale structure of the Universe, and supernovae as cosmological distance indicators. He is a founder of and currently serves as Director of the Dark Energy Survey, a collaboration of over 120 scientists from 20 institutions on 3 continents. Honorary Fellowship is conferred to mark his singular contributions to the study of dark energy.
the government of Madhya Pradesh.Professor Rajmal Jain, of the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, has led the development and exploitation of space and ground-based instrumentation in India, including the Solar X-ray Spectrometer (SOXS) flown successfully on the Indian GSAT-2 spacecraft, with which iron and nickel line features in the solar corona were demonstrated. His enthusiasm for developing instrumentation has inspired new generations in India to be involved in hardware projects. In the field of outreach, for the last 20 years he has organised scientific and telescope-making workshops for school students in several Indian states, promoting science and technology education in rural India. He has also given over 100 public lectures in the last few years. In 2013 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from