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Pioneering award for researcher

A University of St Andrews scientist has been honoured for his ‘major contributions’ to many of the unsolved problems in solar physics.

Professor Eric Priest, a world-leader in solar physics, was awarded the Payne-Gaposchkin medal by the Institute of Physics at a special ceremony in London.

The Payne-Gaposchkin medal is awarded annually for distinguished research in plasma, solar or space physics world-wide and is accompanied by a prize of £2000.  It was presented by Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, the current president of the Institute of Physics, famous for discovering pulsars.

The medal is named after a pioneer in astronomy, Cecilia Payne, who in 1925 was the first to show that the sun is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium, contradicting accepted wisdom at the time.  Cambridge-educated, she was the first woman to be made a full professor at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Priest was awarded for his `numerous major contributions to many of the unsolved problems in solar physics, including magnetic reconnection, coronal heating, phasing-mixing of MHD waves and solar flares’.

During the last 40 years, Professor Priest built up the Solar Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) Group at St Andrews from nothing to a group consisting of eight permanent staff, six postdoctoral researchers and fifteen research students.

He said, “This award owes a huge amount to the vibrant research atmosphere in St Andrews, and I’ve been highly fortunate to have three brilliant long-term close collaborators here, namely, Alan Hood, Clare Parnell and Duncan Mackay.”

Recently retired, Eric was made an Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Solar Physics at the University’s Mathematical Institute, and hopes to continue active research.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was awarded earlier this year the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

PROFESSOR PRIEST IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON: 01334 463 709 (WORK), 01334 474 975 (HOME), email ERIC@MCS.ST-ANDREWS.AC.UK

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

AN IMAGE OF PROFESSOR PRIEST BEING PRESENTED WITH HIS AWARD IS AVAILABLE FROM THE PRESS OFFICE – CONTACTS BELOW.

CAPTION: ERIC PRIEST BEING PRESENTED WITH THE PAYNE-GAPOSCHKIN MEDAL BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk
Ref:  Priest Payne medal 031109
View the latest University press releases at www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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