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Awards, Medals and Prizes

Winners of the 2015 awards, medals and prizes - full details

On Friday 9 January the Royal Astronomical Society announced the Society’s medals and awards for 2015. The prizes honour individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to astronomy and geophysics. The recipients will be invited to receive their awards at the 2015 National Astronomy Meeting, which will be held in Llandudno during July.

Professor Martin Barstow, President of the RAS, congratulated the winners: "There are many exceptionally talented women and men working in astronomy and geophysics, here in the UK and across the world. Our medals and awards honour those who have made an outstanding contribution to these sciences. As President of the RAS, it gives me enormous pleasure to congratulate this year's winners and to wish them continued success in all that they do."

Awards are designated 'A' for astronomy (including astrophysics, cosmology etc.) and 'G' for geophysics (including solar physics, planetary science, solar-terrestrial physics etc.). Some awards are given in both fields.

Click on any of the images of the winners (where available) for larger versions.

 

Gold Medals

sgoldfrontThe Gold Medal of the RASThe Society's highest honour is its Gold Medal, which can be awarded for any reason. Most frequently it recognises extraordinary lifetime achievement. pdfPast winners include Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Arthur Eddington and Stephen Hawking. It was first awarded in 1824; since 1964 two have been awarded each year: one for astronomy, and one for geophysics.

Gold Medal (A)

Michel MayorProf. Michel Mayor, winner of the Gold Medal for astronomyThe Gold Medal in astronomy is awarded to Professor Michel Mayor, of the University of Geneva.

Prof. Mayor has opened a new field with the discovery twenty years ago of the first planet orbiting a Sun-like star, 51 Pegasi b. Opening a new field of research is an achievement made by few people. Exoplanet research is now growing and has become a major field in astrophysics. The pivotal discovery by Prof. Mayor was not the result of luck or coincidence, but of a thought-out strategy developed with patience and perseverance to detect low mass companions to Sun-like stars.

Prof. Mayor has also contributed to the field of stellar multiplicity and galactic dynamics with publication of ground-breaking works. After the discovery of 51 Peg b, Michel Mayor continued fostering the growth of this field, taking the lead in the development of instrumentation aimed at higher and higher radial velocity precision, in particular the HARPS instrument. Once again his expert determination paid off with the discovery of a new population of super-Earths and Neptune mass planets. Prof. Mayor is thus not only the founder but also truly the leader of his field.

Gold Medal (G)

Mike LockwoodProf. Mike Lockwood, winner of the Gold Medal for geophysicsThe Gold Medal in geophysics is awarded to Professor Mike Lockwood FRS, of the University of Reading.

Prof. Lockwood is one of the most eminent researchers today in space physics. He has made defining contributions in several different fields, from the ionosphere, via the magnetosphere and the heliosphere, to the Sun and its influence on the Earth's climate. Among the highlights of his broad career are his early discovery of a 'fountain' of ions populating the polar magnetosphere from the ionosphere. Thereafter, his novel analysis using ground-based radar combined with space-based particle measurements yielded new quantitative insights into magnetic reconnection at the magnetopause. This helped to illuminate how this most fundamental of plasma processes operates.

His most recent work has focused on the impact of the variable solar output on the heliosphere and the Earth's climate, including founding a new field of study of the long-term variability of the Sun's magnetic field. Quite remarkable is the fact that this now vibrant research area arose from Prof. Lockwood's very first paper in solar physics, reporting that the Sun's coronal magnetic has doubled in the last 100 years. Throughout his career, Prof. Lockwood has provided novel and far-reaching insights that have subsequently become accepted paradigms, and paved the way for further study.

 

Eddington Medal (A)

Rashid SunyaevProf. Rashid Sunyaev, winner of the Eddington MedalseddingtonThe Eddington MedalThe Eddington Medal is awarded for single investigations of outstanding merit in theoretical astrophysics, and goes to Professor Rashid Sunyaev, of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Prof. Sunyaev has done pioneering work in the study of the physics of the interaction of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) with the hot intracluster medium in massive clusters of galaxies. The temperature of the thermal CMB changes as the free electrons in ionized gas of the intergalactic medium scatter with the CMB photons, and transfer energy to them. Rashid Sunyaev realised that the bulk motions of these electrons, moving with the cluster itself, would also imprint a signature by the same means. He played a key role in characterising this specific effect -- later to become known as the kinetic Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect. Crucially an observational measurement of this effect could be employed to measure the velocity of galaxy clusters relative to the cosmic background radiation. The kinetic SZ effect was finally detected in 2012, over 30 years after it was first postulated.

The kinetic SZ effect can provide important quantitative constraints on velocity fields in general. For example, it has been postulated that it could be used to probe the physics of the early universe, the so-called era of reionization. Moreover, by extension of the recent proof of concept detection of the kinetic SZ effect to measure the velocities of many clusters of galaxies relative to the expanding universe, we may be able to better understand what is causing the Universe's apparent accelerating expansion. This would have implications for the predictions of modified gravity cosmological models, which are alternatives to those involving dark energy.

 

Price Medal (G)

John BrodholtProf. John Brodholt, winner of the Price MedalspriceThe Price MedalThe Price Medal is for single investigations of outstanding merit in solid earth geophysics, oceanography or planetary sciences. It is awarded to Professor John Brodholt, of University College London.

Prof. Brodholt developed molecular dynamics programs to simulate liquids and applied them to H2O − CO2 fluid speciation in the crust and mantle. This equipped him to work on intermolecular potentials for molecular dynamics simulations. He combined this expertise with cutting-edge computer tools and studied problems such as the effect of point-defect mobility on mineral creep and the electrical conductivity of the mantle. He went on to work on perovskite, post-perovskite, the transport properties of core liquids and the iron phases of Earth's solid inner core. This work is the most relevant of any computational mineral physicist's to earthquake seismology. He applied his methods also to planetary ice, the structure of nitrogen-water ices and clathrates, the properties of brines that may exist in Earth's crust, and the interiors of icy planets. In addition, he examined the possibility of radioactivity in the core, the subduction of banded iron formations in the early Earth, and core material incorporation into the base of the mantle. This work comprises an outstanding contribution to understanding the deep interior of Earth and the icy planets.

 

Herschel Medal (A)

Stephen EalesProf. Stephen Eales, winner of the Herschel MedalsherschelThe Herschel MedalThe Herschel Medal recognises single investigations of outstanding merit in observational astrophysics. It is awarded to Professor Stephen Eales of the University of Cardiff.

Prof. Eales is a world-leading sub-millimetre astronomer whose research interests focus on the properties of dust, both in nearby galaxies and in the early Universe. During the Herschel era, many observational techniques pioneered by his research group have been adopted as the de-facto routine methods for tracing the energy and mass distributions of dust in galaxies. His leading work includes the first detections of cold dust in external galaxies, which opens the ideal route for studying the extra-galactic interstellar medium, and dust detections in the young supernovae remnant Cassiopeia A, which led to our understanding that supernovae are major sources of interstellar dust. His leadership of the Herschel H-ATLAS survey is specifically recognised here. The results have fundamentally changed our understanding of sub-mm galactic populations and generated a superb dataset which will continue to be exploited by astronomers for decades to come.

 

Jackson-Gwilt Medal (A)

Allan ChapmanDr Allan Chapman, winner of the Jackson-Gwilt Medalsjackson-gwiltThe Jackson-Gwilt MedalThe Jackson-Gwilt Medal is awarded for single investigations of outstanding merit in either: the invention, improvement or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques; achievement in observational astronomy; or in the history of astronomy. The medal is awarded to Dr Allan Chapman, of the University of Oxford.

Dr Chapman is a renowned historian of astronomy. Through his extensive public lecturing, publications and television appearances he has brought astronomical history to new audiences. In doing so he has raised the profile of the history of astronomy and stimulated historical research.

Dr Chapman's book, The Victorian Amateur Astronomer: Independent Astronomical Research in Britain 1820-1920 is of particular note and is an essential resource for any researcher of nineteenth-century astronomy. The Victorian Amateur Astronomer identifies and honours the "grand amateurs", a term he used to describe a group of people, seemingly unique to Britain, who made major discoveries from privately-funded observatories or who popularised astronomy among the masses. Allan Chapman's in-depth research documents the work and achievements of the often self-educated assistant astronomers, many of whom were previously unknown and who did so much of the ground-work that led to published results. The era spanned by his book is of great importance to British astronomy and it puts into social context the foundation of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Astronomical Association. Dr Chapman's work for this publication resulted in the foundation of the Society of the History of Astronomy, a society which seeks to understand the history of astronomy and the important contributions by lesser-known figures in history as well as those who are more famous.

 

Chapman Medal (G)

Alan HoodProf. Alan Hood, winner of the Chapman MedalschapmanThe Chapman MedalThe Chapman Medal is awarded for single investigations of outstanding merit in solar-terrestrial physics, including geomagnetism and aeronomy. The medal goes to Professor Alan Hood, of the University of St Andrews.

Prof. Hood is an outstanding scientist in theoretical solar physics, and one who is keenly aware of the importance of combining theory with observation. His early analytical work on the properties of coronal magnetic flux loops is seminal, and paved the way for the theory of coronal loops in the solar atmosphere as a whole. This work included theories for thermal and magnetic equilibrium structures, and led to the derivation of the basic result for the influence of photospheric line-tying on the stability of coronal loops and coronal arcades. This demonstrated how they become unstable to a kink or eruptive instability when the twist or shear is too great. This was a pioneering analysis. It identified the anchoring of the loop in the dense atmosphere as the main reason for stability, and made predictions for the critical value of twist beyond which the kink instability will set in, leading to eruption. This work formed the basis for modern computational experiments and current understanding of the origin of eruptive flares and coronal mass ejections.

 

Fowler Prizes

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 (A)

Haley GomezDr Haley Gomez, winner of the Fowler Prize in astronomyThe Fowler Prize in astronomy goes to Dr Haley Gomez, of the University of Cardiff.

Dr Gomez has already established herself as an internationally respected researcher in infrared and sub-millimetre observational astronomy, publishing over 75 refereed journal papers in the 10 years since her PhD. In particular, she is a leading expert on the nature, contents, and evolution of interstellar dust in the Universe. Her research on dust is comprehensive, ranging from studies of the production of dust grains in stellar outflows and supernovae, to studies of the distributions and properties of dust on the scales of galaxies.

Dr Gomez's major research contribution has been in increasing our understanding of the origin and evolution of dust and of its role in galaxies. She was the first to demonstrate that there is a dust accountancy problem for the high‐redshift galaxies detected in sub-millimetre surveys. These are detected through the continuum emission from the dust they contain, but her work showed that there had not been enough time since the beginning of the Universe to build up the dust – if orthodox theories of dust formation were true. This work kick‐started the "dust budget crisis" debate, and has now been cited almost 200 times.

Throughout her career, Dr Gomez has taken a lead in bringing research to the public and, in particular, encouraging girls and children from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider degrees in physics. She has run workshops for girls considering careers in physics – initially a local programme but one that now runs throughout Wales. She recently won an 'Inspire Wales' award for the most inspirational person in science in Wales.

Fowler Prize (G)

Catherine RychertDr Catherine Rychert, winner of the Fowler Prize in geophysicsThe Fowler Prize in geophysics goes to Dr Catherine Rychert, of the University of Southampton.

Dr Rychert's work focuses on imaging the tectonic plate and constraining the mechanism that defines it. She investigated what makes a "plate" plate-like on a variety of scales and in a variety of tectonic environments. In order to do this she developed a range of geophysical methods. She imaged the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary beneath eastern North America using scattered waves, showing that it is too sharp to be just a thermal gradient. Another mechanism is required, and this may be a change in composition or the appearance of melt. Dr. Rychert built on this work, adapting it to the global scale and finding sharp boundaries in a variety of tectonic environments. She went on to expand her results to oceanic areas, developing a novel SS-waveform method to deal with situations where there are few seismic stations. Recently she has focused on the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary at the continent-to-seafloor spreading transition in the Ethiopian Rift and at subduction zones. Dr. Rychert's impressive body of significant contributions in this field makes her one of the world's leading young seismologists.

 

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, normally not more than 5 years after the completion of their PhD.

Winton Capital Award (A)

A Winton Capital - MichalowskiDr Michal Michalowski, winner of the Winton Capital Award in astronomyThe Winton Capital Award in astronomy goes to Dr Michal Michalowski, of the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Michalowski was awarded his PhD in 2009 from the University of Copenhagen and is currently at the University of Edinburgh. His main research is in observing and modelling the spectral energy distributions of high-redshift galaxies, particularly at radio and sub-millimetre wavelengths, and in estimating the galaxies' physical parameters such as star-formation rates, stellar masses and dust masses.

Michał Michałowski's main line of interest has been to study the origin of large dust masses in sub-millimetre galaxies, their evolution and their assembly into larger galaxies over time. This work has been documented in a remarkable output of well-cited publications. In another line of attack on the same problem of the evolution of the early universe, he has maintained his collaborative work on gamma ray bursts (GRBs) with researchers in Denmark, using GRBs to identify early galaxies and probe their properties. All this work has been carried out with numerous collaborators world-wide and a large range of cutting-edge observational facilities, spanning spectrum from the ultraviolet to the radio. It has been a dynamic start to a promising career.

Winton Capital Award (G)

G Winton Capital - MortonDr Richard Morton, winner of the Winton Capital Award in geophysicsThe Winton Capital Award in geophysics goes to Dr Richard Morton, of the University of Northumbria.

Dr Morton is a scientist of exceptional talent and promise, who has already made significant contributions to magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) wave theory and magneto-seismology of the Sun. He led a number of original studies, combining analytical modelling of MHD waves with analysis of solar observations. This has had a strong impact within the field. His work includes some of the most realistic models of solar waveguides and the first treatment of MHD waves that includes the time evolution of the background plasma in coronal loops.

Dr Morton also provided the first resolved observations and detailed study of incompressible MHD wave phenomena in spicules in the on-disk chromosphere, as well as the detection of sausage modes in solar magnetic pores. In addition to his scientific contributions, Dr Morton has been a tireless and effective communicator of his research to the general public.

 

Group Achievement Awards

The Group Achievement Awards recognise outstanding achievement by large consortia in any branch of astronomy or geophysics, where it is not appropriate to present, jointly, one of the other awards of the Society.

Group Achievement Award (A)

e-MERLINA representation of the e-MERLIN array of radio telescopes, winner of the Group Achievement Award in astronomyThe Group Achievement Award in astronomy is given to the e-MERLIN team at Jodrell Bank Observatory. This consortium is led by Professor Simon Garrington, Director of Jodrell Bank Observatory at the University of Manchester.

The e-MERLIN radio interferometer consists of seven radio telescopes, equipped with new high-bandwidth receivers. The radio telescopes are centred on Jodrell Bank Observatory with a maximum baseline length of 220 km, spread across the UK. At the heart of e-MERLIN is a revolutionary data transfer network which uses dedicated dark optical fibre connections from each telescope to transmit signals synchronised within nanoseconds to a new correlator.

After 12 years of development, e-MERLIN became operational in 2012 and routinely yields sub-arcsecond resolution imaging at centimetre wavelengths. Recent papers have identified cores in high redshift galaxies as active galactic nuclei; found jet-triggered star formation in distant galaxies; studied the time evolution of extragalactic supernova remnants; imaged jets in nearby proto-stars; and resolved the radio photosphere of the star Betelgeuse.

e-MERLIN provides both a technical and scientific test bed for the future. The data links developed for e-MERLIN are a major component of the Square Kilometre Array project, and the team that developed these is now also leading the signal and data transport work package for the SKA. The leading role that the UK has in the SKA project was made possible by the development of e-MERLIN.

Group Achievement Award (G)

The Hinode EIS teamMembers of the Hinode Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) team, winners of the Group Achievement Award in geophysicsThe Group Achievement Award in geophysics is given to the Hinode Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) team. This consortium is led by Professor Louise Harra, of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London.

The Hinode spacecraft is a mission to study the Sun, from its photosphere to its extended corona, at high spatial and spectral resolution. Launched in September 2006, it carries three instruments, one of which is the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS). EIS is designed to carry out imaging spectroscopy measurements and perform quantitative plasma diagnostics of the solar corona over a broad range of plasma temperatures, from the quiet Sun to the hottest parts of solar flares.

The instrument has been an unqualified success. It has operated flawlessly since launch, and produced data which have been shared internationally. EIS data have been used in around 900 refereed publications to date. Many scientific highlights have emerged, shedding light on: the heating and dynamics of the corona; the source and energisation of the solar wind; the presence of large and small scale hydrodynamic waves in the corona; and the properties of hot flaring plasma. The success of the instrument results from the close collaboration of British, Japanese, American and Norwegian teams who, in addition to their remarkable scientific advances, have provided outstanding support to the UK and international community.

 

Service Award

Lidia van Driel-GesztelyiProf. van Driel-Gesztelyi, winner of the Service AwardThe Service Award honours individuals who, through outstanding or exceptional work, have promoted, facilitated or encouraged the sciences of astronomy or geophysics and developed their role in the life of the nation but whose achievement does not fall within the criteria of the Society's other awards. It is given to Professor Lidia van Driel-Gesztelyi, of Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London.

Prof. van Driel-Gesztelyi is a world-leading solar astrophysicist who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to supporting her research community, through a number of high-profile appointments. In the period 2006–2009, she served as secretary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Division II (Sun and Heliosphere), overseeing three Commissions. Over the last 10 years, she has served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Solar Physics. Her dedication has seen the journal prosper, with its impact factor increasing by 72% between 2005 and 2012. This breadth of international experience and service culminated in her election as President of IAU Commission 10 in 2009. She is also a member of the Science Committee of the International Space Science Institute. In all these roles she has worked tirelessly to promote the science of solar physics.

 

Patrick Moore Medal

Sarah Llewellyn-DaviesSarah Llewellyn-Davies, winner of the Patrick Moore MedalThe Patrick Moore Medal is awarded for a particularly noteworthy contribution to astronomy or geophysics by secondary-school-level teachers. It is given to Sarah Llewellyn-Davies, of Castell Alun High School, Flintshire.

With the success of mass-media promotion of astronomy in recent years, it's easy to forget the impact an enthusiastic, passionate individual can have on astronomy in their community. Llewellyn-Davies is such a person. She is an experienced secondary chemistry teacher with a lifelong interest in astronomy – recognising that it is an all-encompassing subject that affects everyone.

Llewellyn-Davies has run extra-curricular astronomy classes for students for many years and has extended these to include GCSE Astronomy - with such excellent results that students from other local schools attend Castell Alun to study it. In spite of working in a rural area, public events she has organised have attracted in excess of 200 people, many of whom would otherwise have had little contact with astronomy or any cutting-edge science. The local authority and Estyn (the education and training inspectorate for Wales) have shown great interest in her work for more able students.

Examples of Llewellyn-Davies's wider work include:

  • Lead Educator for the National Space Academy
  • Original team member of the successful AstroSchools project bid
  • Main contributor to the teaching ideas section of the Institute of Physics Astronomy DVD
  • Initiated sharing of astronomy resources and ideas by creating a local network of teachers

The sort of low-key, but consistently excellent, work that Llewellyn-Davies does is deserving of recognition by the RAS. She has been quietly "getting on with things", inspiring large numbers of children in her own and neighbouring schools, and providing the backbone teaching that is necessary to keep astronomy alive as a thriving subject in UK schools.

 

Honorary Fellows

The RAS may honour any person eminent in the fields of astronomy or geophysics by election as an 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; or outstanding work in the history of these sciences.

 

Fiona HarrisonProf. Fiona Harrison, appointed an Honorary FellowProfessor Fiona Harrison, of the California Institute of Technology, is the Pinciple Investigator of NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). Her most significant work is recent, responsible for opening a new window on space, and will have lasting significance in high energy astrophysics.

NuSTAR was launched in June 2012, and it is now filling one of the last spectral regions which had previously been limited to balloon experiments: the three-octave high-energy X-ray band between 10 and 80 keV. Fiona Harrison's vision, dedication and leadership of the whole NuSTAR project has been central to the mission's success. She has played an active role in all aspects of the mission – from instrument development and operations to the scientific exploitation of the NuSTAR data. Her lab developed the CdZnTe detectors and specialised electronics used by NuSTAR, based on an earlier design flown on the NASA-funded High-Energy Focusing Telescope balloon experiment (also led by Professor Harrison). NuSTAR provides improvements in both angular and spectral resolution above 10 keV which combine to provide more than two orders of magnitude gain in sensitivity over all previous observations in this band.

The data from NuSTAR so far has encompassed a broad range of exciting new discoveries, improving our understanding of high energy sources ranging from supernova remnants to black holes to the Galactic centre.

 

Janet LuhmannDr Janet Luhman, appointed an Honorary FellowDr Janet Luhman, of the University of California, Berkeley, is the Principal Investigator for the IMPACT instruments on board the STEREO spacecraft. In this role she has led the instrumentation development and the subsequent post-launch provision of high quality data and analysis tools for the solar and heliospheric communities.

She has served as Co-Director for Solar/Heliosphere areas in the NSF Science and Technology Center, CISM (Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling), and in 2007 she was awarded the AGU's John Adam Fleming medal. Dr Luhmann has also served as president of AGU's Space Physics and Aeronomy section; chair of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Solar and Space Physics from 1994-1997 and member of NASA's NAC Science Committee. She has served on numerous other NASA, NRC and NSF committees, including NAS/NRC Committee on Solar Terrestrial Research. From 2001-2003 she was editor in chief of the AGU's JGR-Space Physics journal.

Dr Luhmann has worked tirelessly and successfully to support and promote her community through leadership and membership of national and international committees, leadership of space instrumentation projects, and editorial management of journals.

 

Hon Fellow - SternDr Alan Stern, appointed an Honorary FellowDr Alan Stern, of Southwest Research Institute, is a distinguished planetary scientist, space program executive, aerospace consultant, and author. His academic research focuses on studies of our solar system's Kuiper belt and Oort cloud, comets, the satellites of the outer planets, the Pluto system, and the search for evidence of solar systems around other stars.

Dr Stern has also worked on spacecraft rendezvous theory, terrestrial polar mesospheric clouds, galactic astrophysics, and studies of tenuous satellite atmospheres, including the atmosphere of the moon. In 2007 and 2008, he served as NASA's chief of all space and Earth science programs, directing an enterprise with a budget of $4 billion with 93 separate flight missions and a program of over 3,000 research grants. During his NASA tenure, a record 10 major new flight projects were started and deep reforms of NASA's scientific research and the education and public outreach programs were put in place.

Dr Stern is the Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to reconnoitre Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, which launched in 2006 and will arrive at Pluto in 2015.

 

Asahiko TairaDr Asahiko Taira, appointed an Honorary FellowDr Asahiko Taira, of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, is one of the foremost Earth scientists in Japan and internationally. His pioneering studies of the rocks and sediments onshore and offshore Japan established the geological history of the Japanese islands in a plate-tectonic context as a series of uplifted oceanic accretionary prisms.

Dr Taira has published widely in English and Japanese including a three-volume textbook. He is the first scientist to become president of JAMSTEC, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. As Director-General of JAMSTEC he led the Japanese contribution to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), about half of the IODP's total $167 million per annum budget. This included negotiating with the Japanese government funding to construct the riser drilling vessel "Chikyu", costing about $650 million, and the technology development programme required for its ambitious goal of drilling into active offshore faults responsible for subduction-zone mega-earthquakes. The outcome of Dr Taira's work has included "Chikyu" being rapidly deployed to drill into the 2011 magnitude-9 Tohoku-Oki earthquake fault. It broke a drilling-depth record by penetrating over 2,111 m below the seafloor to seek microbial life in a coal bed. The IODP continues,under the title "International Ocean Discovery Program", to be one of the largest and most important international programmes in Earth sciences.

 

Named Lectures

The Society invites distinguished speakers to deliver its major 'named' lectures.

George Darwin Lecture (A)

Katherine BlundellProf. Katherine Blundell, who will deliver the George Darwin lectureThe George Darwin Lecture, on a topic in astronomy, will be given by Professor Katherine Blundell, of the University of Oxford.

Prof. Blundell is a world expert in the high-energy astrophysics of quasars and microquasars. Her work spans observations and understanding of the jets emanating from both supermassive black holes in active galactic nuclei and stellar mass black holes in X-ray binary stars. She has carried out pioneering work on the nature and evolution of classical double-lobed radio sources, their spectra and energy budget, and has shown that all high redshift radio galaxies must be young. Prof. Blundell provided the first demonstration that the weak radio emission associated with radio-quiet quasars arises from an active nucleus rather than star formation. Her work has demonstrated quantitative analogies between the radio-loudness of quasars and radio-loud flares in microquasars.

In recent years she has focussed her attention on the microquasar SS433. For this object she has discovered the precession of its equatorial ruff of radio emission and the presence of a circumbinary disc, as well as making the most precise determination of the mass of its black hole and the distance to the system. She currently runs the Global Jet Watch project, which links astronomers at Oxford University with school children around the world in order to carry out cutting-edge research on SS433.

Harold Jeffreys Lecture (G)

Anthony WattsProf. Anthony Watts, who will deliver the Harold Jeffreys lectureThe Harold Jeffreys Lecture, on a topic in the interior structure, formation and composition of the Earth and/or planets, will be given by Professor Anthony Watts of the University of Oxford.

Prof. Watts is an internationally-acknowledged world leader in understanding the mechanical strength of lithospheric plates and the manner in which they deform. He studied this by investigating the flexural response of the lithosphere to loading by geological bodies, such as oceanic volcanoes and large-scale river sediment deposits. He has devoted his career to applying the lessons learned to large-scale structures such as subduction zones, intraplate swells and continental margins. This work has made a major contribution both to industry, through its relevance to hydrocarbons, and also to global sea-level change.

In addition, Prof. Watts has trained many younger scientists who are now eminent in their own fields, and many of the leading geoscientists in global hydrocarbon exploration companies. Prof. Watts' work thus not only comprises an outstanding contribution to the marine geophysical research community and an exemplary contribution to teaching and mentoring young scientists, but it but also has relevance to scientific, industrial, and societal issues. His vast range of knowledge of the field makes him an ideal Harold Jeffreys lecturer.

James Dungey Lecture (G)

Helen MasonDr Helen Mason, who will deliver the James Dungey lectureThe James Dungey Lecture, on a topic in the science of the Sun, solar environment, planetary environments or solar-terrestrial science, will be given by Dr Helen Mason OBE, of the University of Cambridge.

Dr Mason is a solar physicist specialising in the development and application of ultraviolet (UV) and X-ray spectroscopic diagnostics of solar plasmas. She has made many key contributions in this area, uncovering the physical properties of plasmas in all parts of the quiet and active solar atmosphere. She has underpinned her findings with theoretical atomic physics calculations. Working between atomic physics and solar physics led her to become one of the founding members and driving forces of the Chianti consortium. Since 1996 this has developed and provided the atomic physics database and diagnostic package that has made extreme UV spectroscopy available to a generation of solar physicists.

Dr Mason has been widely recognised for her outstanding work and personal leadership in science outreach and communication in the UK and overseas. This includes work with schools and teachers, numerous public lectures, and appearances on radio and television. She was named as one of the 2010 'Women of Outstanding Achievement' by the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, and awarded an STFC Science and Society Fellowship.