Early career researcher wins the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize

10 November 2016

Visiting researcher and science communicator Dr Jess Wade has won the IOP’s Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize, an early career award for female physicists.

Early career researcher wins the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize

She was one of four finalists who gave presentations on their research, their involvement in outreach and their support for other physicists at the IOP’s London centre on 9 November.

Wade (pictured with Dr Heather Williams) completed a PhD in plastic electronics at Imperial College London earlier this year. In her talk at the award finals she spoke about the physics involved and also described her outreach work. At Imperial, where she is a visiting researcher, she has been an outreach ambassador, founded Imperial College Women in Physics community and arranged numerous events for girls on the campus. She now also conducts outreach at King’s College London.

Wade has previously won the “I’m a Scientist: Get Me Out of Here” competition as well as the Early Career Physics Communicator Award of the IOP’s Physics Communicators Group. She said: “My physics life has been directed by some pretty awesome women scientists: my mother, my physics teacher at school, Dr Walgate, and my university supervisors and mentors, Professor Ji-Seon Kim and Professor Lesley Cohen. My PhD was a success thanks in large part to the guidance of Dr Sebastian Wood, the world’s greatest teacher of plastic electronics.

“I have been incredibly lucky to be surrounded by some of the most exciting and brightest minds in the world and I have always felt it my duty to try and encourage others to study physics. Since graduating, the Institute of Physics has become increasingly important – for inspiration, networking and professional development. Thank you.”

Early career researcher wins the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize

Among the other finalists was Jessica Boland, a DPhil student in the Terahertz Photonics Group at the University of Oxford, who works on characterising new semiconductor nanostructures for use in optoelectronics devices. Her outreach activities include giving “Inspiring Physics” lectures to GCSE and A-level students across Oxford and co-ordinating the Early Career Academic Outreach Network for the university. In an independent project she is developing a light-based demonstration for hearing-impaired or deaf students who are interested in science.

Early career researcher wins the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize

Another was Dr Jennifer Gaughran, who recently completed a PhD at the School of Physical Sciences and the Biomedical Diagnostics Unit at Dublin City University (DCU). Her specific interest was in the design and testing of compact fluid microdevices for rapid disease detection and she is now the centre manager for the Advanced Processing Technology Research Centre in DCU. She has won multiple science communication competitions, speaking about her research to non-specialist audiences.

Early career researcher wins the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize

The fourth finalist was Teodora Oniga, a third-year PhD student in theoretical physics at the University of Aberdeen. In her work on quantum gravitational decoherence, she is researching the effects of gravitational fields on quantum systems such as scalar fields or photons.

The Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize is for women in early career who have made a substantial contribution to physics and who support and encourage others in the field. It was established by the IOP’s Women in Physics Group (WIPG) as the Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year Award and in 2016, its tenth year, it became a bronze medal of the IOP and was renamed after Professor Dame Jocelyn Burnell. The WIPG will continue to assess nominations for the award. Wade will be presented with the medal and a prize of £1000 at the IOP’s Awards Dinner on 29 November.

Dr Heather Williams, who is senior medical physicist for nuclear medicine at Central Manchester University Hospitals and chairs the WIPG, said: “The judging panel and the WIPG committee were very impressed by the incredible work done by Jess Wade, and the amount of time and effort she has put into not only her own work, but also the amazing outreach and engagement work she does too.

“Celebrating the success of women in physics is crucial in not only encouraging those like Jess, who achieve so much, to be proud of what they do, but to highlight the outstanding work women are doing in physics every day and encourage others to follow them. I offer my warmest congratulations to Jess and look forward to following her future successes as she progresses throughout her career.”

At the finals, she also paid tribute to Ann Marks, who founded the award and who died in October.