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Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell awarded Copley Medal and donates gift to scholarship fund

24 August 2021

Dame Jocelyn pledges further gift to the IOP PhD scholarship fund that bears her name and seeks to diversify physics research.

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, FRS, FRSE, FRAS, FInstP has been named the 2021 winner of the world’s oldest scientific prize, the Royal Society’s prestigious Copley Medal, and is donating her £25,000 prize money to the Institute of Physics (IOP) for the fund that bears her name: the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund (the Fund).

The Fund aims to encourage greater diversity in physics by assisting talented students from under-represented groups to study physics PhDs, including female students, Black and other minority ethnic (BAME) students, people with refugee status and students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds who would otherwise struggle to complete a course of postgraduate study due to their circumstances.

The Fund is made possible thanks to the generosity of Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who won the prestigious Breakthrough Prize in 2019 for her role in the discovery of pulsars.

Dame Jocelyn chose to donate her £2.3m prize award to the IOP to set up the Fund to help counter what she described as “the unconscious bias that still exists in physics research” and this further donation will contribute to this work.

Dame Jocelyn has been awarded the Copley Medal for her work on the discovery of pulsars, one of the major astronomical discoveries of the 20th century.

Professor Paul Hardaker, CEO at the IOP, commented: “We are enormously grateful to Dame Jocelyn for her continued generosity. Together we are committed to diversifying participation in physics, and the Fund enables students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, who may otherwise not be able to, to continue their studies and undertake a physics PhD.

“We need to continue and expand the programme and this additional donation from Dame Jocelyn will contribute to this ambition.
“So far 12 exceptional people have been funded through this initiative and we hope to make this 50 by the end of the IOP’s current strategy in 2024. These 12 are role models to others who are thinking of further study and show well the value that Dame Jocelyn has brought about with her two donations.

“We hope that in the future others will join Jocelyn in supporting the Fund’s vital work.”