Royal Society announces Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship and first Royal Society Wolfson Visiting Fellowship awards

31 March 2021

Eight leading international researchers have been awarded the first Royal Society Wolfson Fellowships and Royal Society Wolfson Visiting Fellowships since the relaunch last year.

The Royal Society Wolfson Fellowships will enable UK universities and not-for-profit research institutions to attract and recruit internationally outstanding leading researchers to their organisation, and the Royal Society Wolfson Visiting Fellowships will enable leading international researchers and their host organisation to develop ongoing collaborative research links, share ideas and practice.

Julie Maxton, Executive Director of the Royal Society said: “We are delighted to have appointed three Royal Society Wolfson Fellows and the first five Royal Society Wolfson Visiting Fellows in the inaugural round for the refreshed programme supported in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation.

 It is increasingly important to support world-leading talent and foster international collaborative research links. By supporting the careers of outstanding international scientists in the UK, we can strengthen and build a critical mass of excellence in the best university departments and research institutions of the UK, maximising innovation and creativity in science for the benefit of humanity.”

Paul Ramsbottom, CEO of the Wolfson Foundation said: “We have a long and fruitful partnership with the Royal Society, including across two decades on the various iterations of this important programme. We are delighted to have an ongoing involvement and welcome the new flexibility offered by the Visiting Fellowships. Global collaboration in science has never been more crucial, and we are excited to see the range and ambition of the research being pursued by the Fellows announced today.” 

The full list of awardees are: 

Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship awardees

Professor Patrick Meir, University of Edinburgh - Detecting and understanding the responses of tropical rainforest to drought, and the long-term legacy

Professor Patrick Meir is a forest ecosystem scientist currently based at the Australian National University. Through this award, Professor Meir will re-locate to the University of Edinburgh, where he will combine observational and experimental approaches to understand the effects of climate change on tropical forests. 

Tropical forests have a large influence on the atmosphere, affecting our climate regionally and globally. However, despite their critical role in the Earth’s system, their responses to future climate change remain poorly understood. This work will combine a unique long-term experiment in Amazonian rainforest with new approaches in remote sensing to help determine and monitor the effects of drought and related warming on tropical rainforest growth, diversity and stability.

Professor Wenying Shou, University College London - Surviving perturbations: Quantitatively understanding microbial community robustness

Professor Wenying Shou is the Professor of Quantitative and Evolutionary Biology at University College London, having been recruited from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, USA. Her group studies biology using experiments and mathematical models: Experiments help constrain models, and model predictions drive new experiments. 

With the Royal Society Wolfson Fellowship, Professor Shou seeks to quantitatively understand the robustness of microbial communities – the ability of a community to survive external perturbations. In particular, using an engineered yeast cooperative community and quantitative modelling, her group will examine how traits of community members might impact the robustness of a community as a whole, and how community robustness might change as members evolve. A quantitative understanding of what makes a community robust and how robustness might change during evolution will facilitate the future engineering of communities for bioindustry applications.

Professor David Thompson, University of East Anglia - Insights into middle and high latitude climate variability and change

Professor David Thompson is a climate scientist currently located in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University in the USA. He will relocate to the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

Thompson’s research is focused on better understanding the processes that govern large-scale climate variability across a range of spatial and time scales. Under the auspices of the Wolfson Fellowship, he will focus on problems that lie at the interface of atmospheric dynamics and clear-sky radiative processes, cloud radiative effects, and variability in the ocean circulation. Together with his students he will probe 1) the role of clouds and clear-sky radiative processes in climate variability; 2) the importance of ocean dynamical processes in extratropical climate; 3) the processes that drive week-to-week periodicity in the extratropical atmospheric circulation; and 4) the mechanisms whereby anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances drive changes in the middle and high latitude atmospheric circulation.

Royal Society Wolfson Visiting Fellowship awardees

Professor Victor Eremeyev, Aberystwyth University - Modelling of complex multiphysical phenomena on microstructured surfaces

Professor Victor Eremeyev is a Professor of Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering of GdaÅ„sk University of Technology and an Associate Professor of Department of Environmental Civil Engineering and Architecture of University of Cagliari. His research relates to extension of the classic models of continua and structures and related mathematical methods towards new applications at various scales.  

He will study a class of problems of mechanics of solids with thin coatings or interfaces – static analysis of stresses and possible fracture and influence on wave propagation. He intends to develop new and effective methods for modelling surface effects in order to study static integrity of a metamaterial with the surface coating, wave propagation and redirection by various surface metastructures, and failure of a metamaterial covered by metastructures.

Professor David Jamieson, University of Manchester - Atomic qubits by ion implantation: towards very large-scale quantum devices

Professor David Jamieson is Professor of Physics at the University of Melbourne.  He is also a chief investigator and program manager within the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology. A quantum computer with a billion quantum bits (qubits) could have revolutionary potential for quantum mechanical drug design or discovering new pathways to fusion power. These capabilities are well beyond the capacity of even the most powerful classical computers. A quantum computer gets its revolutionary capabilities by using the strange laws of quantum mechanics to encode and process information using delicate quantum states programmed into the machine.

Taking inspiration from classical information technology Professor Jamieson will investigate the promising attributes of arrays of single donor atoms with large nuclear spins by implanting them into semiconductor chips.  The quantum mechanical nuclear and electronic spins on these atoms in spin-free crystals can be configured with quantum states that are relatively insensitive to the external perturbations that shorten the lifetime of the programmed qubits. This work will address the challenge of finding pathways to building a very large-scale quantum computer device where robust logical qubits are encoded in clusters of atomic qubits.

Professor Ian Mann, Northumbria University - Towards the Forecasting and Mitigation of Adverse Space Weather Effects

Professor Ian Mann is a Professor in Physics at the University of Alberta in Canada. He is an expert in space weather science, focussing on the dynamics of near-Earth space during space storms.

Prof. Mann’s research will focus on two of the most important outstanding questions in space weather science: What causes the acceleration of so-called "satellite killer" high energy electron space radiation? and What causes the explosive release of energy in near-Earth space? 

The proposed research will advance fundamental understanding and have potentially important applications for the mitigation of space weather effects on technological infrastructure including satellites and the electric power grid.

Professor Federico Rosei, Swansea University - Building a green bridge between Canada and the UK: towards sustainable energy technologies

Professor Federico Rosei is a Professor at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Quebec, Canada. Federico holds a UNESCO Chair in Materials and Technologies for Energy Conversion, Saving and Storage and also holds the Canada Research Chair (senior) in Nanostructured Materials. 

Federico’s research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of nanostructured materials and their use as building blocks in emerging technologies. In recent work, he explored two classes of materials, specifically (a) Multiferroic thin films with tuneable bandgap and (b) Quantum Dots (semiconductor nanocrystals exhibiting quantum confinement and whose optoelectronic properties can be adjusted by varying size, shape and composition). These materials hold tremendous promise, particularly in solar technologies such as photovoltaics, hydrogen generation, “solar windows” and light-charging batteries. The complementarity of his expertise with ongoing activities at Swansea University on scalability and manufacturing of photovoltaic and energy storage technologies will open new avenues for developing low-cost and sustainable fabrication processes as a response to the ever-growing global demand for renewable energy solutions.

Dr Belinda Wilkes, University of Bristol - The Power and Impact of Super-Massive Black Holes in the Universe

Dr Belinda Wilkes is a Senior Astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and the Former Director of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Center. With this award she will relocate to the School of Physics, University of Bristol where she will explore the contribution of SMBHs to the total power in the universe, and the mechanisms through which SMBHs impact the galaxies which host them. 

A major unanswered question in understanding the formation of the structures we see today in our universe concerns how a SMBH in a galaxy nucleus influences structures millions of times its size. Dr Belinda Wilkes’s research focuses on multi-wavelength (radio-X-ray) spectral energy distributions of radio-loud active galaxies, those with a nuclear SMBH which is actively accreting material from the surroundings. These extensive datasets facilitate identifying and disentangling emission from various components around the SMBH and within the host galaxy. At Bristol she plans to expand her dataset to include higher spatial and spectral resolution data from current cutting-edge telescopes to directly probe SMBH interactions with their host galaxies.