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Innovative fund supports tomorrow’s researchers with new scholarships programme

Four female physics research students are the first to benefit from an innovative fund set up by leading physicist Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the Institute of Physics (IOP).


The Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund (the Fund) was set up to encourage diversity in physics by assisting talented students from under-represented groups to study PhD physics.

Dame Jocelyn was awarded the 2019 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her role in the discovery of pulsars, and donated her £2.3m Breakthrough prize money to the Institute of Physics to set up the Fund. 

The awardees are Joanna Sakowska from the University of Surrey; Katarina Mamic from the University of Lancaster; Tracy Garratt from the University of Hertfordshire and Kiri Newson from the University of Hull.

In 2017/18, just 23% of physics undergraduate students were female (Higher Education Statistics Agency Student Record 2017/18).

Rachel Youngman, Deputy Chief Executive of the Institute of Physics commented: “These four talented and deserving students are embarking on exciting opportunities in physics research that might otherwise have been denied them.”

“To study for a PhD requires considerable commitment, and physics is certainly no exception, but some students also face additional challenges and barriers that require them to demonstrate even more resilience if they are to succeed.

“We know that research is stronger and more effective as the physics community becomes more diverse. So we are all so grateful to Dame Jocelyn for her generosity in establishing the Fund and by doing so sending out such a strong message that everyone can do physics. We are honoured to be working hard to support that message.”

Professor Helen Gleeson, Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Leeds and Chair of the judging panel, commented: “It’s fantastic to have been able to play a part in identifying the first recipients of the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund.

“The competition was very tough, with a large number of eligible students who could benefit from sources of funding such as this.

“The successful applicants are embarking on exciting research projects, and we are looking forward to them inspiring others in their ambassadorial role.”

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell