Two Oxford researchers awarded Stephen Hawking Fellowships
14 September 2021
Public Engagement - news
Dr Alexander Mushtukov or Dr Orazio Scarlatella (Physics) are amongst 11 researchers being awarded the Stephen Hawking Fellowship that aims to answer the greatest unanswered questions in science and bring these fundamental questions about the nature of the universe to a wider audience through public engagement activities.
11 new Stephen Hawking fellows look to answer the greatest unanswered questions in science, from how the universe evolved to what happens when black holes collide.
They will bring these fundamental questions about the nature of the universe to a wider audience through public engagement activities, inspiring a new generation through various media and outreach activities.
The Stephen Hawking fellowships were launched in 2019 by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), working with the Hawking family, in recognition of Professor Stephen Hawking’s achievements.
The second cohort of fellows, supported with a £4.5 million investment, will conduct ground-breaking new research in theoretical physics and underpinning areas of science.
The Stephen Hawking fellowships are delivered by UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Science and Technology Facilities Council.
UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:
"Stephen Hawking not only radically altered our understanding of the universe, he also opened science out to millions of people across the world, through many routes from “A Brief History of Time” to appearing on the Simpsons.
The new Stephen Hawking Fellows will build on that enduring legacy through their ambitious research and a mission to connect diverse people to research and innovation."
Two of newly minted fellows are researchers in Oxford:
Dr Alexander Mushtukov, University of Oxford
Ultraluminous X-ray sources are among the most mysterious objects in the universe, with the most discussed models to explain ultraluminous X-ray sources involving black holes.
However, recently, ultraluminous X-ray sources hosting an X-ray pulsar, a neutron star pulsating in the X-rays, have been discovered. This implies that X-ray pulsars can be unbelievably bright, exceeding theoretical upper limits for luminosity by a factor of hundreds. Fundamental aspects of the physics at work in X-ray pulsars are unknown.
Through this fellowship, Dr Mushtukov aims to develop a unified theory of accretion onto strongly magnetised neutron stars and conduct a coherent theoretical investigation of the physics of pulsating ultraluminous X-ray sources.
Ultraluminous sources hosting a neutron star give us a unique possibility to study physical processes in extreme conditions, which cannot be reached in terrestrial laboratories and are a very challenging playground for theoreticians.
Dr Orazio Scarlatella, University of Oxford
The bizarre and fascinating properties of quantum systems are very fragile and thus difficult to observe and manipulate. This is because they are altered by the inevitable interaction of these systems with their surroundings.
Through his fellowship, Dr Scarlatella aims at advancing our understanding of how quantum properties are modified by this interaction, which is crucial for the development of future quantum technologies.
He will equally contribute to inspiring the next generation of scientists as well as wider society, making the modern results of quantum physics accessible to non-specialists.