University of Birmingham: Royal Astronomical Society honours Birmingham scientist with Fowler Award

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!’

Professor Bill Chaplin, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham said: ‘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 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!’

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