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Top scientists receive Royal Society Research Professorships to fund long-term UK research

31 October 2014

Royal Society Research Professorships have been awarded to two world-class scientists: Nobel-prize-winning physicist Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov FRS and outer planetary space scientist Professor Michele Dougherty FRS.

The award provides long-term support enabling leading scientists to focus on their research; appointments are usually made for up to 10 years.

The latest recipients of the award are:

  • Professor Michele Dougherty FRS, Imperial College London
  • Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov FRS, University of Manchester

Professor Michele Dougherty FRS is the Principal Investigator for two major outer planetary space missions – the NASA Cassini spacecraft which is in orbit around Saturn and the ESA JUICE spacecraft that will go into orbit around Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. For the past 15 years she has been responsible for the leadership of the Cassini magnetometer instrument team, which measures magnetic fields in space. Her international team of scientists and engineers aim to understand the planet’s magnetic field, how it interacts with its icy satellites, such as Enceladus where they discovered outgassing of water vapour from a subsurface liquid water ocean. The JUICE mission to Jupiter will launch in 2022 and reach the Jupiter system in 2030, and Professor Dougherty was selected to lead the magnetometer team for this mission in 2013. The aim of the JUICE mission is perform detailed investigations of Jupiter and its system, with particular focus on Ganymede due to its potential habitability. The JUICE mission will focus on the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants and characterise in detail the conditions of Jupiter’s major moons, including confirming the size and content of the liquid water ocean underneath Ganymede’s icy surface.

“I am very excited to have been awarded a Royal Society Research Professorship,” said Professor Dougherty. “It will enable me to focus on the fantastic science which my instrument onboard Cassini will produce during the final 3 years of orbit around Saturn, as well as plan the instrument design and science we will do with the JUICE mission to orbit Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon.”

Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov FRS is known for his work on graphene for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with Andre Geim in 2010. Since the isolation of graphene there have been many other 2D crystals that have been discovered and studied, including hexagonal boron nitride, molybdenum disulphide, niobium diselenide, amongst others. Collectively, these materials cover a large range of properties: from most conductive to insulating, from transparent to opaque. Professor Novoselov is working to search for new 2D atomic crystals and investigate their unique properties. He also combines these 2D crystals into 3D stacks to create heterostructures – the different combinations of 2D crystals provide a unique opportunity to design the heterostructures with specific, predefined properties.

Professor Novoselov said: “Because we can combine very different materials in a stack which is only a few atomic layers thick – we can encode very specific properties into these heterostructures, in fact a number of different properties, which can then be used for multifunctional applications. We are talking about designing materials on demand for specific applications.”

Professor Novoselov has also received Royal Society funding since 2007 under the University Research Fellowship scheme.

The Royal Society Research Professorship posts provide long-term support for internationally recognised scientists of outstanding achievement. Previous holders of Royal Society Research Professorships include six Nobel Laureates and five Presidents of the Royal Society.