Leicester luminaries win astronomical awards

Posted by er134 at Jan 13, 2014 12:25 PM |
Three members of the same department at the University of Leicester win medals from the Royal Astronomical Society

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 13 January 2014

Contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk to request images

Three medals are to be presented to scientists at the University of Leicester for their outstanding achievements in the fields of astronomy and related sciences.  It is a rare distinction for triple awards to be made to academics who all work in the same department.

The Royal Astronomical Society announced the following 2014 Awards to Professors at the University of Leicester:

  • RAS Service Award to Professor Mark Lester, Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy

Awarded to individuals who, through outstanding or exceptional work, have promoted, facilitated or encouraged the science of astronomy and developed their role in the life of the nation but whose achievement does not fall within the criteria of the Society's other awards.

  • RAS 'A' Eddington Medal to Professor Andrew King, Professor of Astrophysics

Awarded for single investigations of outstanding merit in theoretical astrophysics.

  • RAS 'A' Jackson-Gwilt Medal to Professor George Fraser, Director of the University’s Space Research Centre

Awarded for single investigations of outstanding merit in Invention, improvement, or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques or for achievement in observational astronomy

Professor Lester said: I am of course very pleased that my work has been recognised by the Royal Astronomical Society.  The award came as a complete surprise and I am gratified that my peers have seen fit to honour me in this way.

“I am also delighted that the work of my colleagues Andrew King and George Fraser has been recognised by the award of the Eddington medal and Jackson-Gwilt medal, respectively.  The awards illustrate the respect and high esteem with which both colleagues are held within the Astronomy community in the UK and internationally.  Andrew and George are leaders in their research fields internationally and the award of these medals by the RAS demonstrates this leadership.

“It is also excellent for the Department that our work has been recognised by these awards.  The fact that three members of the Department have been awarded medals by the RAS this year demonstrates the high quality of the Department's overall research programme.”

Congratulating the academics on their distinction, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Robert Burgess, said: “I am absolutely delighted that these three Leicester academics have been honoured by the Royal Astronomical Society, all of whom have given outstanding service to the University as well as to their discipline.  The awards are richly deserved and indicate the success that has been achieved and the strength that Leicester has in the field of Physics and Astronomy.  This will not only be really positive for the staff concerned but also for the Department and the wider University.”

Martin Barstow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Head of the College of Science & Engineering, Professor of Astrophysics & Space Science and President-elect, Royal Astronomical Society said: "These awards recognise their outstanding contributions to astrophysics and space science and shows that the department of Physics & Astronomy is one of the leading centres in the world."

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science.

President Professor David Southwood congratulated the winners, saying: "For nearly two centuries the RAS has supported the work of astronomers and geophysicists in the UK and around the world. It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce the winners of our medals and awards for 2014, recognising the extraordinarily talented men and women who reach the highest levels of achievement in our field."

Citation for the 2014 RAS Service Award

Professor Mark Lester

Professor Mark Lester is Professor of Solar-Terrestrial Physics at the University of Leicester and currently the Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. During a productive scientific career of over 30 years he has also given outstanding and selfless service to the UK and international solar-terrestrial physics community through representation, advocacy and leadership – including vice-Presidency of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1991 to 1993, serving on the PPARC Astronomy Grants Panel as a member and then Chair for a decade from 1997 to 2007, and member of various other high-level committees within PPARC, STFC, NERC, ESA, NASA, and the UKSA.

Perhaps his greatest service has been his contribution to, and leadership of, the ground-based ionospheric radar community nationally and internationally, initially with the European Incoherent Scatter Radar Association, including Chair of the EISCAT Project Committee from 1992 to 1995, and subsequently with the international Super Dual Auroral Radar Network as PI of two UK SuperDARN radars. Here his extraordinary service and leadership is exemplified by his personal involvement on 111 of all 551 SuperDARN papers published to date and has culminated in him being leader of the SuperDARN Executive Council since 2003. During this time he has overseen SuperDARN more than doubling in size to a $20M asset comprising 32 radars operated by 15 PI groups in 8 countries, serving over 2,000 registered users … and still growing.

For these reasons, Professor Mark Lester is awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s Service Award for Geophysics.

Citation for the 2013 RAS 'A' Eddington Medal

Professor Andrew King

The Eddington Medal is awarded to Andrew King, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Leicester. Professor King has a long and distinguished career in the field of accretion disc theory, ranging from stellar mass compact binary systems up to the supermassive black holes in quasars. His contributions include co-authorship of a now classic book “Accretion Power in Astrophysics”. Recently he has made major contributions to the topic of intermediate mass black holes.  These objects, if they are proved conclusively to exist, would fill a gap between the binary system black holes of up to about 10 times the mass of the Sun, and the supermassive black holes lying at the core of galaxies, with billions of times the mass of the Sun.  On a different topic Professor King has also significantly advanced our understanding of the nature of feedback-driven galactic winds.  His work on momentum and energy driven winds has broad implications for the physics of accretion processes within active galactic nuclei, as well as for aspects of the evolution of galaxies.

For these reasons these reasons Professor Andrew King is awarded the Eddington Medal.

Citation for the 2013 RAS 'A' Jackson-Gwilt Medal

Professor George Fraser

The Jackson-Gwilt Medal is awarded to Professor George Fraser, Director of Leicester University’s Space Research Centre.  Professor Fraser’s innovative technical developments have been central to many of the X-ray missions over the last three decades several of which are still in orbit, working well and producing unique data on the high energy Universe.  One example of his innovative skills is the so-called “lobster-eye” concept applied to X-ray imaging. This is the basis of instruments proposed for several future space missions. His influence has been felt at many levels, and he has written a widely used textbook on X-ray detectors. Professor Fraser has also successfully bridged the gap between academia and industry.  His contributions have played a major role in what has been recognised as a “Golden Age of X-ray astronomy”.

For these reasons Professor George Fraser is awarded the Jackson-Gwilt Medal


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