Alix Freckelton is one of just 10 new recipients of the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship, announced today by the IoP, taking the number of physics PhD students currently supported to 31.
The fund was set up by leading physicist Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the Institute of Physics (IOP) in 2019 after Dame Jocelyn was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her role in the discovery of pulsars.
Dame Jocelyn immediately donated her entire £2.3m prize award to the IOP. Her aim was to help counter what she described as “the unconscious bias that still exists in physics research”, adding: “I don’t need the money myself, and it seemed to me that this was perhaps the best use I could put it to.”
The fund aims to improve diversity in physics by offering doctoral scholarships to students from groups currently underrepresented in the physics research community.
Those eligible include women, people with refugee status, ethnic minorities, disabled or financially disadvantaged students – and others who would otherwise struggle to complete a course of postgraduate study due to their circumstances.
Alix is currently researching the properties of stars that could be hosts to exoplanets. Specifically, her work focuses on stars that are similar to our sun, as these will be the best targets around which to search for an Earth twin.
Receiving the award, she said: “My mum taught me about Jocelyn when I was pretty young and she’s been a massive inspiration to me ever since. If I could go back and tell my younger self I’d received support from Jocelyn I’d probably burst with excitement – which is almost exactly what I did when I got the email that my application had been successful.”
Wherever we look there are problems that need physicists to help solve them and the more diverse we can make the population of physics researchers and innovators the more effective and creative it will be.Rachel Youngman, Deputy Chief Executive of the Institute of Physics
Rachel Youngman, Deputy Chief Executive of the IOP, said: “This year I am delighted that we have been able to continue the amazing legacy of Dame Jocelyn in supporting 10 incredibly promising students in furthering their studies and building their careers in physics.
“We desperately need physicists to help us meet the challenges of the next industrial age; whether that is in helping make nuclear fusion a viable source of energy production, exploiting the opportunities of quantum computing or helping design faster, smaller and more powerful semi-conductors.
“Wherever we look there are problems that need physicists to help solve them and the more diverse we can make the population of physics researchers and innovators the more effective and creative it will be.