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RAL Space Chief Scientist Recognised in Annual Awards for Astronomy and Geophysics

A number of STFC supported researchers have been honoured by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in its annual awards.

Professor Richard Harrison, Chief Scientist at STFC RAL Space was recognised for his contribution to the field of geophysics, and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team, which includes many UK researchers, were awarded the Group Achievement Award in Astronomy for their work detecting gravitational waves.

The RAS have named Professor Harrison as the recipient of the Service Award for Geophysics in recognition of his long and substantial contribution to the field. The award was announced at a meeting on Friday in London with medals to be awarded at the National Astronomy Meeting to be held in Hull in July.

In response to receiving this award, Professor Harrison said “It is particularly pleasing to receive an award that recognises a long-term contribution to a research field and the community – I feel particularly honoured to have been considered, and thank the RAS for this recognition”. 

Professor Harrison who is Chief Scientist at STFC RAL Space has had a long and distinguished career spanning over 37 years. Richard has been an influential member of the UK solar, Heliospheric and Space Physics communities, as well as holding pivotal roles on many leading solar space missions. A Principal Investigator (PI) on the SOHO and STEREO missions for many years, Professor Harrison has always been praised for his ‘hands-on’ approach to his work and his dedication.   He has been a PI of space instrumentation, in flight, continuously for over 21 years. 

Currently, he is a core member of the STFC Science Board and he holds honorary visiting professorship positions at the universities of Aberystwyth, St Andrews and Imperial College, London. 

Director of STFC RAL Space, Dr Chris Mutlow commented ‘It is with great pleasure that we congratulate Professor Richard Harrison on this great achievement. A very worthy recipient, we are thrilled that Richard’s achievements and his contributions are being recognised. Richard is our Chief Scientist and has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of solar physics within the UK & European community’.

The Group Achievement Award in astronomy has been given by the RAS to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team for their work in the direct detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO detectors situated in Livingston and Hanford in the US.

The RAS called this an epochal event in physics and astronomy. This extraordinary achievement is the culmination of many decades of work, including US-based instruments and teams working alongside scientists around the world, with STFC supported teams in Glasgow, Cardiff and Birmingham playing important roles in the project. Important work was also undertaken by a technology team at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory as part of the project. This discovery represents a historic advance of scientific, technological and engineering achievement. 

Congratulations also to Professor Michele Dougherty who has been awarded the Gold Medal in geophysics. Based at Imperial College London Professor Dougherty has made significant and substantial contributions to the national and international space physics community during her career so far. She is the Principal Investigator for the magnetometer instrument on the Cassini mission to Saturn, and she has expertly led the team through a vast array of scientific discoveries at the Saturn system.

The full list of winners can be viewed at the Royal Astronomical Society website.


Corinne Mosese
STFC Media Officer
Tel: 07557 317200


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