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Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE is an astrophysicist who, as a postgraduate student, discovered the first radio pulsars.[1] Though this earned her supervisor a Nobel Prize, she was not included; far from being despondent she explains that no student could have expected to be included in such an honor in those days.[2]

Amazingly, only the second woman to be made a professor of physics in the UK, Burnell became the President of the Institute of Physics (IOP) in 2008, the first woman to hold this role.

I met Professor Burnell briefly at a IOP event where she was to give us a presentation on Project Juno[4] and couldn’t help but be impressed by her friendly manner (I was standing on my own as I knew no one there and she came over and spoke to me; it’s the sort of act that leaves an impression.)

With a lifetime of achievements and honors, including Fellowship of the Royal Society and a DBE, she nevertheless remains a modest individual; we are really fortunate to have her as our President.

References

[1] Cosmic Search Vol. 1, No. 1 – Little Green Men, White Dwarfs or Pulsars?

[2] Jocelyn Bell Burnell – Professor in Astrophysics, President of the Institute of Physics and gender equality champion

[3] Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE becomes President – IOP

[4] Project Juno

I’ve just returned from working at the Newcastle Mela where I was volunteering for the Institute of Physics (IOP). Entitled Physics in the Field, this volunteer programme from the IOP aims at getting physics and physicists out of the laboratories, classrooms, observatories and anywhere else it and they may be lurking and into the rest of the world.

Physics, as we know, is the science of… well… everything really, so you should be able to illustrate physics principles with anything. So out come the plastic straws (sound, vibrations), balloons (energy), coat hangers (wave motion), old paperbacks (friction), indigestion tablets (pressure) and bubble mixture (surface tension, interference, turbulent flow).

A great time was had by all I think, certainly I enjoyed it: how can you not enjoy having the opportunity to ask someone to wrap a piece of string around their finger and then stick their finger in their ear… in the interest of science, of course.

If you love something, share it, because extensive experimentation on my part has so far not revealed a conservation of enthusiasm principal.