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Diversity and inclusion

First winners of Bell Burnell fellowships announced by the Institute of Physics

08 Jul 2020 Michael Banks
Winners of the Bell Burnell Fellowships
The inaugural Bell Burnell fellowships have been awarded to (clockwise from top left) Katarina Mamic, Kiri Newson, Joanna Sakowska and Tracy Garratt. (Courtesy: Institute of Physics)

Four female physics students have been awarded a new fellowship that seeks to promote diversity in physics. The Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund, awarded by the Institute of Physics (IOP), which publishes Physics World, aims to encourage diversity in physics by supporting students to do a PhD in the subject.

The new fund aims to help students from groups currently under-represented in physics, including female students, black and other minority ethnic students, people with refugee status and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It was set up in 2018 after astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell — a former IOP President — donated £2.3m to the IOP. The cash was the money that Bell Burnell received after being awarded the 2019 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her role in the discovery of pulsars in the 1960s.

To study for a PhD requires considerable commitment, but some students also face additional challenges and barriers that require them to demonstrate even more resilience if they are to succeed

Rachel Youngman

The first awardees of the fund are astrophysics PhD students Joanna Sakowska from the University of Surrey and Tracy Garratt from the University of Hertfordshire as well as physicist Katarina Mamic from the University of Lancaster and medical physicist Kiri Newson from the University of Hull. The host university or institution will now pay at least 50% of the full costs of their doctoral programme with the scholarships providing support for course fees, living costs as well as any additional funding to support accessibility including support for carer responsibilities.

“These four talented and deserving students are embarking on exciting opportunities in physics research that might otherwise have been denied them,” says Rachel Youngman, deputy chief executive of the IOP. “To study for a PhD requires considerable commitment, and physics is certainly no exception, but some students also face additional challenges and barriers that require them to demonstrate even more resilience if they are to succeed.”

The awardees were chosen by a panel chaired by Helen Gleeson, a soft-matter physicist from the University of Leeds. “The competition was very tough, with a large number of eligible students who could benefit from sources of funding such as this,” says Gleeson. “The successful applicants are embarking on exciting research projects, and we are looking forward to them inspiring others in their ambassadorial role.”

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