Two of the University of Birmingham’s leading scientists have been awarded with a prestigious Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship.

Professor David Hannah, Professor of Hydrology, UNESCO Chair in Water Sciences and Director of Research in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, and Professor Andreas Freise, Professor of Experimental Physics and Deputy Director, Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy, have both been awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship.

The Fellowship provides long-term flexible funding for senior career researchers in fields identified as a strategic priority for the host department or organisation. The scheme covers all areas of the life and physical sciences, including engineering, but excluding clinical medicine. The scheme is jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Royal Society.

David Hannah, Professor of Hydrology, UNESCO Chair in Water Sciences, and College Director of Research for Life & Environmental Sciences, said:

“I am honoured to be awarded with a Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship. Not only will the Fellowship enable us to create lasting impact for our important research on how the water cycle is changing, but it is great recognition of the work completed already. It is vital that scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders understand how global change (climate, human impact and other drivers) is altering the quantity and quality of water in the environment. The support of the Royal Society and the Wolfson Foundation will enable us to further develop our understanding in this area.”

Professor Andreas Freise, Professor of Experimental Physics and Deputy Director, Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy said:

“I am delighted to be awarded the Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship at a crucial time in young field of gravitational wave astronomy. The LIGO and Virgo detectors have provided the first ever detection of gravitational waves. In parallel we are working towards realising a new large European gravitational wave observatory, the Einstein Telescope. The funding from this fellowship will allow me to provide essential support for the instrument design, which is required during the coming years for our application to get the Einstein Telescope included on the European roadmaps for large projects. Funding and recognition of instrument design and development at this time make all the difference for transforming this new area of science into a major theme in future astronomy.”

Reacting to the news, Professor Tim Softley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer, said:

“This is great news and testament to the high quality research being led by some of the most eminent academics in their field.  I am delighted for David and Andreas, and their teams, and this award recognises the continued importance of their ground breaking research.”

David Hannah is Professor of Hydrology, UNESCO Chair in Water Sciences, and College Director of Research for Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham. His long-term vision is to understand water cycle processes, hydrological events (flood, drought) and water-related impacts under climate and other drivers of change. With >175 international journal articles published so far, David’s research has significant global reach and he has given keynotes at major conferences in Europe, Asia and the USA, and to Canadian Government and UNESCO and authored invited commentaries in top journals. As a UNESCO Chair, he is active in the Intergovernmental Hydrology Programme. From 2010-16, David was UK National Representative for the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS), Chair of the UK IAHS Committee, sat on the British Hydrological Society Committee and UK Panel for the International Union for Geodesy and Geophysics, and attended International Council for Science meetings at The Royal Society. Currently, he sits on the UK Committee for National and International Hydrology, is Vice President of the International Commission for Surface Water (2010-), and Chair of the Mountain Hydrology Working Group (2014). David maintains a focus on communicating the importance of water science for society and is an established policy advisor in the UK and Scottish Governments.

Professor Freise leads a small research team in the Gravitational Wave Group, working on new technologies and instrumentation for high-precision experiments. He has a leading role in the optical design of new gravitational wave detectors. For several years, he chaired the optical design working groups of the international projects Advanced Virgo and the Einstein Telescope. Furthermore, Freise has developed and maintains the software package Finesse, which is used world-wide for the design of interferometer systems. He have pioneered new approaches to public engagement and co-founded a non-for-profit company Laser Labs Games CIC to develop mobile apps for science outreach.

For more information please contact Dominic Benson, Deputy Director of Communications, University of Birmingham, on +44 121 414 5134. Alternatively, contact the Press Office out of hours on +44 (0)7789 921165.

For more information and the Royal Society, please contact Omar Jamshed, The Royal Society Press Office, +44  (0) 207 451 2510.

About the University of Birmingham:

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

About the Royal Society:

  • The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science. Each candidate is considered on his or her own merits and can be proposed from any sector of the scientific community. Every effort is made to encourage nominations of women candidates and candidates from the emerging disciplines.
  • There are approximately 1,600 Fellows and Foreign Members, including around 80 Nobel Laureates. Each year up to 52 Fellows and up to 10 Foreign Members are elected from a group of around 700 candidates who are proposed by the existing Fellowship.

About the Wolfson Foundation:

  • The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities. Since it was established in 1955, over £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 11,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review.