Five IOP members are awarded Royal Astronomical Society medals

17 January 2017

Professor Michele Dougherty has won the Gold Medal for Geophysics of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) – its highest honour – while four other IOP fellows or members have been awarded RAS medals.

Five IOP members are awarded Royal Astronomical Society medals
Imperial College London/Joe McGorty

The RAS awards two Gold Medals each year, one for astronomy and one for geophysics, and Dougherty is the first woman to have won a Gold Medal since 2005 and only the fifth woman to have done so since the RAS was founded in 1820.

She has been awarded the medal for her “significant and substantial contributions to the national and international space physics community during her career so far”, the RAS said. The citation from the RAS praises her leadership of the magnetometer team for the Cassini mission to Saturn, her work that led to the discovery of a dynamic atmosphere on Enceladus and her determined efforts as an advocate for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) to be selected by the European Space Agency for a mission to the outer solar system.

Dougherty is Professor of Space Physics at Imperial College London. She is a fellow of the IOP and received the Institute’s Chree Medal and Prize in 2007.

Five IOP members are awarded Royal Astronomical Society medals
Imperial College London

The Fowler Award for Astronomy has been awarded to IOP member Dr Jonathan Pritchard, a senior lecturer in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London. He has received the award for his work in the area of 21cm cosmology and the epoch of reionisation.

“His work has shown how redshifted 21-cm radiation in absorption and emission can be used to map neutral hydrogen gas in the universe, and thereby disentangle the history of galaxy formation and understand the first sources of ionising radiation,” his citation from the RAS says.

The Fowler Award for Geophysics has been awarded to early-career space physicist Dr Christopher Chen, an STFC Ernest Rutherford Research Fellow in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.

Five IOP members are awarded Royal Astronomical Society medals
Byron Wong

His citation from the RAS says that he is “already a world expert on the turbulence of magnetised plasmas and how this operates in the solar wind, and he has made significant contributions to our understanding of the three-dimensional nature of magneto-hydrodynamic turbulence, and the physics of turbulent plasma heating and energy dissipation”. He is an associate member of the IOP.

The Service Award for Astronomy has been awarded to Derek Fry, who has taught physics and astronomy for 50 years, the last 16 years voluntarily since his retirement in 2000. Much of his teaching career was spent at what was then Leeds Grammar School, where he introduced optional astronomy classes after being appointed in 1987.

Five IOP members are awarded Royal Astronomical Society medals
The Grammar School at Leeds

His citation from the RAS says: “As well as having helped thousands of students achieve physics GCSE or A-level, there are more than 15 theses dedicated to him. Mr Fry’s tremendous legacy includes inspiring numerous students to pursue careers in science and address some of the greatest challenges of our age.” Fry (pictured with some Year 9 students at the school where he once taught), is a fellow of the IOP.

The Service Award for Geophysics has been awarded to Professor Richard Harrison, (pictured below left), chief scientist at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and a fellow of the IOP. He is “an influential member of the UK solar, heliospheric and space physics communities who has served with dedication over many years, furthering the interests of UK solar and heliospheric physics,” his citation from the RAS says.

Five IOP members are awarded Royal Astronomical Society medals
STFC

“In addition to his significant scientific research and management activities, he has been a tireless advocate for the UK’s role in space missions,” it adds, also detailing his extensive involvement as a principal investigator and editor.

The Group Achievement Award for Astronomy has been awarded to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory team and the Group Achievement Award for Geophysics has been awarded to the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN).

The 2017 RAS medals will be presented in July at the RAS’s National Astronomy Meeting in Hull.