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Dr Becky Parker wins first RAS Patrick Moore Medal

Last Updated on Monday, 15 July 2013 11:18
Published on Friday, 13 January 2012 16:01

Dr Becky Parker, Head of Physics at Simon Langton Grammar School, has won the first RAS Patrick Moore Medal in recognition of her outstanding work as a teacher of astronomy.

BParkerDr Becky Parker, first winner of the RAS Patrick Moore MedalDr Parker has been an enthusiast for astronomy and physics throughout her career in education, work that includes time as Head of Education at the Institute of Physics. The award principally recognizes her achievements in her current role in her school, a maintained state secondary in Canterbury, Kent and will be presented to her at the National Astronomy Meeting that will take place in Manchester from 27-30 March.

Since her arrival at Simon Langton Grammar School, Dr Parker has established and is Director of the Langton Star Centre, a specialist facility with laboratories, classrooms and an astronomical observatory. Pupils, particularly those at sixth form level, are given the opportunity to join collaborative astronomy and space projects, with the most prominent of these being the Langton Ultimate Cosmic Ray Detector (LUCID), a UK schools experiment that will fly on the TechDemoSat-1 built by Surrey Satellites Technology. Dr Parker developed LUCID, following up on an idea she had while visiting CERN and raised £60,000 to build the detector.

She and her pupils work across regional and national boundaries, collaborating with NASA and ESA scientists and schools in the UK and elsewhere in the world. They have particularly close links with Dr Obote College in northern Uganda, providing welcome support for an institution that has in the past suffered the effects of the insurgency led by the Lord's Resistance Army. Ugandan and UK students will both be able to analyse results from LUCID once it begins operation.

Using instruments like the Faulkes Telescope Project as well as the school's own observatory, pupils also take part in the Langton Universe Astronomical Research (LUNAR) programme, work that for example has seen them discover several near-Earth asteroids.

The positive results from this work are very clear, with pupils from Langton making up 1% of the national cohort of physics undergraduates. For her work in physics education, Dr Parker was awarded the MBE in 2008.

Her boundless optimism, willingness to innovate and collaborate and her enormous success make her a very fitting winner of the first Patrick Moore Medal.

RAS President Professor Roger Davies congratulated her on her achievement. "Becky is a truly outstanding teacher who has directly inspired a large number of young people to pursue careers in science. I'm delighted that she is the first recipient of the Patrick Moore Medal, an award she richly deserves for her work in astronomy education over many years."




Patrick Moore Medal

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The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS,, founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3500 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

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