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Three MPLS academics and researchers have been awarded 2020 IOP Medals for their contributions to Physics - two in the Department of Physics and one in the Department of Chemistry.

Graphic of the solar system

Professor Simon Hooker from the Department of Physics has been awarded the Institute of Physics’ Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Medal and Prize in recognition of his distinguished contributions to plasma physics.

The award recognises in particular Professor Hooker’s pioneering contributions to the development of high-power plasma waveguides and their application to laser-driven plasma accelerators.

‘I am absolutely delighted to receive this award on behalf of the very talented and hard-working group of graduate students, post-docs, and collaborators I have been fortunate to work with,’ confirms Professor Hooker.

Professor Hooker is internationally known for his world-leading research into novel waveguides capable of guiding relativistically-intense laser pulses. He invented the gas-filled capillary discharge waveguide and applied this novel waveguide to laser-driven plasma accelerators. In collaborative experiments with the group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, this approach was used to reach an electron energy of 1GeV for the first time in a laser-driven plasma accelerator. This widely recognised milestone was reported in The Economist as well as in scientific journals, and the paper describing this work has been cited well over 1,000 times. The discovery opens the way to the development of lab-scale GeV accelerators.

Dr Brianna Heazlewood from the Department of Chemistry receives the Henry Moseley Medal and Prize for her outstanding contributions to the development of novel experimental techniques and computational modelling for studying the dynamics and mechanisms of reactive collisions at extremely low temperatures.

Particular important advances include reactions of molecular or atomic ions with polyatomic neutral molecules at very low temperatures of the order of 1 Kelvin, and in the techniques for being able to control the kinetic energy and quantum states of reactant species.

At the University of Oxford, Dr Heazlewood has led the coupling of mass spectrometry with laser-cooled ion trapping, allowing full and quantitative product analysis in the study of the dynamics and kinetics of ultracold ion-molecule reactions in cases of genuine chemical complexity, reactions that have multiple-reaction product channels. This methodology has subsequently been taken up by a number of groups worldwide in the field.

Dr Heazlewood said: 'I'm honoured to have been awarded the Henry Moseley Medal and Prize.  It recognises research that has been conducted with some amazing co-workers.  I'm incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such excellent students, postdocs and collaborators.'

Dr Becky Smethurst from the Department of Physics has been awarded the Mary Somerville Medal. The medal, awarded for exceptional early career contributions to public engagement within physics, is in recognition of the success of her YouTube channel, Dr Becky.

According to the IOP, the Dr Becky channel engages ‘a diverse, global audience with complex astrophysical ideas presented at an accessible level with a large dose of enthusiasm.’ The channel has some 175,000 subscribers and her weekly videos have clocked up more than 9 million views. Covering topics from dark matter to what it actually means to be an astrophysicist, Becky researches, produces and edits videos on a weekly basis alongside her research.

‘I started the channel so I could share my enthusiasm for what I do as an astrophysicist,’ she explains. ‘I want to inspire young people to think about following a career in science and I want to make the science that I study accessible to all. I am incredibly honoured to be awarded the Mary Somerville medal; my YouTube channel is a real labour of love for me and it is fantastic to have it recognised in this way.’

See the full list of IOP 2020 medals and prizes