Postdoc wins Jocelyn Bell Burnell Prize

11 October 2017

Dr Jessica Boland, a postdoctoral researcher in condensed matter at the University of Regensburg, has won the IOP’s Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize.

Postdoc wins Jocelyn Bell Burnell Prize

She was named the winner at an award event in London held by the IOP’s Women in Physics Group (WIPG), where four finalists competing for the prize gave presentations on their research and their activities to support others in the field.

Jessica said after the announcement: “I was absolutely blown away by everybody’s research and everyone’s enthusiasm and it’s been such a great opportunity. I am honoured to have won the prize but the highlight of the day for me was meeting the other candidates and hearing about their cool research because it was in such different fields to mine. There’s so much high impact stuff going on. Also it was great to see how other women in physics my age were thriving and to see their enthusiasm. ”

In her presentation she described her research on the optoelectronic properties of semiconductor nanowires via terahertz spectroscopy and her activities to support women in physics, both as a postdoc at the University of Oxford and now in Germany.

Former chair of the WIPG, Dr Heather Williams, congratulated the finalists and presented each with a book on pioneering women in science. Dr Boland will be presented with the bronze medal and associated prize of £1,000 at the IOP’s annual Awards Dinner in London on 7 November.

The Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize is for women in their 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.

Current WIPG chair Dr Joanna Cole said: “The prize is intended to recognise the outstanding work of women embarking on a career in physics, in industry, education or academia, and to promote the career opportunities open to people with physics qualifications. As such, we look for candidates who have made a substantial contribution to the subject and who have also undertaken activities to support and encourage others in the field. The finalists and prize winner are selected by a judging panel composed of a sub-set of members of the WIPG Advisory Panel, which includes a wide range of senior physicists, who all share the desire of the group to highlight the contribution of women in physics and to promote gender equality in the subject.

“The standard of the applications for this year remains of a very high quality and our four finalists are all outstanding physicists who illustrate the important contribution women are making to our subject. In particular, I am delighted that Jessica Boland has been awarded this year's prize.  She is an excellent early career physicist, who has developed new techniques that have resulted in the demonstration of new terahertz detectors and modulators that can be used for ultrafast wireless communication.

“In addition, she has been active in physics outreach, working as an Ogden Trust careers adviser and developing science workshops for hearing-impaired students, among many other things. Not only is Jessica a great physicist, she is also a fantastic role model for encouraging girls and women into our subject. I congratulate her on being awarded this prestigious prize and I wish her the best of luck with the rest of what I am sure will be a long and distinguished career in physics.”

The other finalists were Monique Henson, Dr Sarah Morgan, and Dr Jessica Turner.

Postdoc wins Jocelyn Bell Burnell Prize

Monique completed a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Manchester, where her research focused on using numerical simulations to test observational techniques for studying the largest structures in the universe. She said: “It was great to have the opportunity to reflect on what I have done and to hear from some fantastic women physicists.”

Postdoc wins Jocelyn Bell Burnell Prize

Sarah, a research associate at the Cambridge Brain Mapping Unit, recently completed her PhD in the Theory of Condensed Matter Group at the University of Cambridge, where her thesis focused on ultrafast quantum effects and vibrational dynamics in organic and biological light-harvesting systems. She said: “I am delighted to be here. It’s great that the Institute of Physics puts this on.”

Postdoc wins Jocelyn Bell Burnell Prize

Jessica Turner completed a PhD at the Institute of Particle Physics Phenomenology at the University of Durham and is now at Fermilab. She has focused her research on the theoretical aspects of fundamental physics, in particular neutrino physics and cosmology. She said: “I am delighted to be here today to meet with other women who are passionate about physics and to share my research.”