Dr Carmen Palacios-Berraquero and Dr Joanne Cole

Postdoc wins Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize

Dr Carmen Palacios-Berraquero and Dr Joanne Cole
Dr Carmen Palacios-Berraquero (left) with WIPG chair, Dr Joanne Cole

A postdoc at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge has won the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize – an IOP award for female physicists in very early career.

The award to Dr Carmen Palacios-Berraquero was announced yesterday at the finals of the competition for the prize organised by the IOP’s Women in Physics Group (WIPG). Four finalists gave presentations at the event in London, covering both their research and their work to support and encourage others in physics.

Carmen, who has just completed her PhD at Cambridge, spoke about quantum communications and her research on 2-D materials for quantum technologies, as well as her activities as a former president of Cavendish Inspiring Women and co-president of the Women and Non-binary Group at the Cavendish Laboratory. She has also been doing some research into the reasons for inequality among women and black and minority ethnic people in physics, and currently has submitted a book proposal based on her findings.

She was delighted to win the award and was congratulated by the WIPG chair, Dr Joanne Cole, along with the other finalists, Sarah-Jane Lonsdale, Lucy McAreavey and Dr Hannah Williams.

Finalist Sarah-Jane Lonsdale
Finalist Sarah-Jane Lonsdale

Sarah-Jane, a third-year PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, spoke about her research on nucleosynthesis in stars and her activities to support grassroots initiatives to increase diversity in STEM, including the LGBT+ Physical Sciences Network. Commenting on the finals, she said: “Taking part in this has been a really exciting opportunity. It’s nice to be able to discuss not only my research but also my work to encourage other people in physics, particularly women in physics. I have been very active in supporting diversity in STEM.”

Finalist Lucy McAreavey
Finalist Lucy McAreavey

Lucy, a third-year PhD student at the University of Liverpool, spoke about her research on imaging in molecular radiotherapy and her outreach work. She regularly volunteers at university open days and her activities have included being part of a team of three women to visit a primary school and get the pupils to draw a scientist. Only one – a girl – drew a female scientist, drawing an image of herself. “The school thanked us and said ‘you have changed perceptions of what a scientist looks like – your coming in today has made them think differently’,” she said.

Finalist Dr Hannah Williams
Finalist Dr Hannah Williams

Hannah, a postdoc at Imperial College, gave a presentation on her research using laser techniques to trap and cool molecules to sub milliKelvin temperatures, enabling more precise measurements that could help in the discovery of new physics. She also spoke about her work in starting social activities and a supportive group to celebrate women’s achievements within the physics department as well as joining its Project Juno committee. She said: “Everybody here has done such fantastic things. It was a privilege to take part in the competition and good luck to everybody in the future.”

A group prize of the WIPG that was originally known as the Very Early Career Female Physicist Award, the award was incorporated into the IOP’s awards programme in 2016 and subsequently renamed the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize.

Each of the finalists will receive a copy of the book A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War, and Carmen will be presented with the bronze medal and associated prize of £1000 at the IOP’s Awards Dinner in November.

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