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IOP welcomes four new Honorary Fellows

29 August 2019

Four Honorary Fellows join the list of esteemed physicists to have received the highest honour that the Institute of Physics can bestow.

Jim Al-Khalili

This year, Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Dame Sue Ion, Professor Ian Munro and last year’s Nobel Laureate, Professor Donna Strickland, join the 62 other Honorary Fellows, on a list that includes Professor Peter Higgs, Lord David Sainsbury of Turville and Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili was elected Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 2000, when he also received the IOP Public Awareness of Physics Award. In 2003, he was elected onto the Council of the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science, now the British Science Association) where he has been a trustee (2006-2012), vice president (2008-2011) and president (2018-2019).

He received an OBE for services to science in 2007, the same year that he was awarded the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science communication and was awarded the IOP’s Kelvin medal in 2011; an award that acknowledges individuals involved in physics outreach who demonstrate outstanding contributions to the public understanding of physics.

A prolific and prominent author and broadcaster, he has written 14 books to date, which between them are translated into twenty-six languages. He is frequently on television and radio, is a regular presenter of TV science documentaries and for many years has hosted the award-winning weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific.

In 2016 he was awarded the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018.

Despite his profile as a public scientist, Jim continues to teach undergraduate physics and carry out research. He is a professor of physics at the University of Surrey, where he also holds a chair in the Public Engagement in Science. He has been made an Honorary Fellow ‘for his outstanding contributions as a broadcaster and presenter in communicating science to the public’.

Jim explained how he felt about the accolade, stating:

“Having been associated with the IOP since 1986, I have always tried to serve it in some capacity. So the award of this Honorary Fellowship means the world to me.”

Dame Sue Ion is a British engineer and an expert advisor on the nuclear power industry. She represents the UK on the world stage, as well as helping to shape long-term energy strategy at home.

She began her career at British Nuclear Fuels Ltd in 1979, acting as Chief Technology Director from 1992 until 2006. She has chaired the EU Euratom Science and Technology Committee since 2010, and represents the UK on a number of international committees, as an expert on nuclear fuel manufacture and technology.

An expert on fuel recycling and on 'fourth generation reactors', which promise to be both safer and more efficient, Sue is Chairman of the UK Nuclear Innovation Research Advisory Board (NIRAB) and is the only non-US member of the US Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee on which she has served since 2005.

She has also been a member of the Board of Governors at the University of Manchester since 2004, and was appointed Visiting Professor of Imperial College in 2006.

In 2003, Sue was awarded an OBE for services to the nuclear industry. In 2010, she was made a Dame in recognition of her tremendous contribution to science and engineering.

She has been made an Honorary Fellow ‘for her internationally recognised expertise in energy and energy policy and tireless advocacy of the safe and efficient use of nuclear power for a better world’.

Sue said:

“When I review the list of those holding Honorary Fellowship, all luminaries in their respective fields, I am truly humbled to be counted in their number.”  

Professor Ian Munro was one of the pioneers of the Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire, being responsible for the plan to build it and for its operation. Daresbury Lab was the first place in the world to use an SRS facility and by the late 1990s about 2000 scientists from the UK and beyond were visiting it each year.

Syncotrons accelerate electrons to near light speeds so that they give off light that is billions of times brighter than the sun. The bright beams are directed into laboratories, where scientists can use the light to study a diverse range of subject matter.

The Daresbury SRS commenced operation in 1978 and operated for 27 years as the world's first custom-designed, dedicated ’light-source’. Other laboratories world-wide followed later with ’2nd generation’ sources.

While a senior scientist at Daresbury Lab, Ian Munro's experience made crucial contributions to the conception and design of the UK's first 3rd generation source, known as Diamond Light Source, which has now operated since 2009 as the UK's 3rd generation source on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron, and is funded by the STFC and the Wellcome Trust. It works like a giant microscope, harnessing the power of electrons to produce bright light - 10 billion times brighter than the sun - which scientists can use, to study anything from fossils to jet engines, and viruses to vaccines.

Ian has been made an Honorary Fellow ‘for world recognised leadership in synchrotron radiation research and development’.

When asked for comment, he said:

“I am personally delighted to receive Honorary Fellowship after a lifetime career in physics, but also just as pleased to see that the considerable contribution made by the UK synchrotron research community to physics has now been recognised.” 

Professor Donna Strickland is the 2018 Nobel Laureate in Physics. She is a Canadian optical physicist and a pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, along with Gérard Mourou and Arthur Ashkin.

She is only the third ever female recipient of the Nobel physics prize in, its 118-year, history and the only living female physics laureate.

In 1985, she and Gérard Mourou succeeded in creating ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying the amplifying material. They stretched the laser pulses in time, to reduce their peak power, then amplified them and finally compressed them. This caused the intensity of the pulse to increase dramatically and is known as ‘chirped pulse amplification’. It has gone on to have many uses, including in laser eye-surgeries.

Donna is a Fellow of The Optical Society (OSA). She served as the 2013 OSA President and is currently Chair of the OSA Presidential Advisory Committee. In 2018, she was listed as one of the BBC's 100 Women. She is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada and has been made an Honorary Fellow ‘for her pioneering method of generating high-intensity, ultrashort optical pulses’.

She said:

“I am honoured to be named an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Physics. I support the Institute’s commitment to education, innovation, and the pursuit of curiosity driven physics research in their community and around the world.”

Congratulating this year’s new Honorary Fellows, Institute of Physics President, Dame Julia Higgins, said:

“Our Honorary Fellows represent an extraordinary group of physicists, to whom we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

“Each and every one of them has made a positive difference to our understanding of physics, enhanced our everyday lives through research and become a beacon for the next generation of physicists.

“On behalf of the IOP, I warmly congratulate all of them.”