Royal Astronomical Society honours Birmingham scientist with Fowler Award

A University of Birmingham scientist has been recognised by the Royal Astronomical Society for early career achievements in astronomy.

Dr Matt Nicholl

Dr Matt Nicholl, in the School of Physics and Astronomy, has received the Fowler Award, made to individuals in recognition of noteworthy contributions to the field within 10 years of completing their PhD.

Dr Nicholl was recognised for the breakthroughs he has made in our understanding of astronomical transients – objects whose existence endures for just a short time, from milliseconds to several years. In particular, Dr Nicholl works on superluminous supernovae, demonstrating that these objects come from massive stars. His study of the first-detected kilonova – the afterglow from a neutron star merger –  led to the development of methods to determine the radius of a neutron star.

The Fowler Award was announced by Royal Astronomical Society among the 2022 winners of its awards, medals and prizes. Each year the RAS recognises significant achievement in the fields of astronomy and geophysics through these awards, encompassing different types of talent from research to education and outreach. The announcements were made at the Ordinary Meeting of the Society held on Friday 14 January 2022.

Dr Nicholl said: ‘The Fowler award is a real honour and a chance to reflect on a lot of exciting science from the last few years. I’m fortunate to be around at a time of amazing growth in our ability to search the sky for new transient sources, and witness the birth of a new field in gravitational wave astronomy. It’s been a joy and a privilege to play around with all this data and learn more about stars colliding, disrupting and exploding, and the black holes and neutron stars they leave behind.

‘I’m so grateful to the RAS, for recognising my work and the importance of studying these sources, and to all my current and former colleagues in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Harvard and Belfast, and many collaborators around the world. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long period of discovery!’

This award is wonderful news and a well-deserved recognition of Matt’s world-leading achievements in what is a fast-developing part of astrophysics.

Professor Bill Chaplin, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham

Professor Emma Bunce, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: ‘I’m delighted that through our awards and medals, we continue to recognise the wealth of talent in the fields of astronomy, geophysics and space science. Our award winners continue to inspire us year after year by uncovering the mysteries of the Universe and the world around us, and encouraging others to do the same. My congratulations to all the winners of our 2022 awards!’

Notes for editors

  • For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348.
  • 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.
  • 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. The RAS organises scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognises outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4,000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.
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