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Double win for Imperial College London in international space science awards

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-Department of Physics
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For immediate use
Wednesday 7 June 2006

Medals recognising outstanding contributions to space science have been awarded to two physicists at Imperial College London.

The Zeldovich Medal, conferred by the Russian Academy of Sciences, is awarded to planetary physicist Marina Galand Opens in new window and astroparticle physicist Diana Shaul. The medals will be presented at the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Scientific Assembly in Beijing during 16-23 July 2006.

Welcoming this double achievement, Professor Sir Peter Knight Opens in new window, Principal of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, said: "This is fantastic news and I'm delighted to be able to congratulate both Diana and Marina. It is particularly significant that this has been achieved by two young women in what has traditionally been seen as a very male environment. I think this speaks volumes about the strides Imperial has taken to create a supportive atmosphere for female academics."

Diana Shaul is recognised for her research into the astrophysical events that shape our universe

The two winners are each recognised for their achievements in different areas of space science. Dr Shaul is currently working on part of the LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) project, which aims to test Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. She explains:

"Einstein posited that a moving mass produces ripples in the fabric of space-time and it is these ripples, known as gravitational waves, that LISA hopes to detect. My research is related to eliminating noise caused by cosmic ray and solar particles that might confuse LISA's search. The project is hugely exciting since it has the potential to open a new window on the astrophysical events that shape our universe."

Dr Shaul says she was taken by surprise at receiving the prestigious award. "Now that the news has settled in, I'm absolutely thrilled. My work forms part of a collaboration and I'm grateful to the first class international team I work with and also my Imperial astrophysics colleagues for their continued support," she adds.

Marina Galand receives the medal for her studies into the atmosphere of planets and moons

Imperial's second winner Marina Galand receives the award for her research on the effect energy sources such as solar radiation have on the atmosphere of planets and moons. She is currently investigating the properties of Saturn's moon Titan using observations made by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which is now orbiting Saturn. She says:

"I'm very honoured to have been nominated for the award. At this stage of my career, the medal represents a strong encouragement for continuing my research, and I'm grateful to all those who have encouraged and advised me over the years."

The Zeldovich Medal, named in memory of astrophysicist Yakov B. Zeldovich, is awarded to up to eight scientists every two years by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Committee on Space Research. It aims to promote the work of scientists under 36 who are judged to have made an outstanding contribution to space science. Sir Peter adds:

"It is vital we give our promising young researchers all the encouragement we can, so I'm delighted to see two of these medals come to Imperial. It can't be often that one department achieves this double success, with two scientists working in quite separate fields winning in the same year."

Previous winners of the Medal at Imperial include Elizabeth Lucek of the Space and Atmospheric Physics group in 2004 and Michele Dougherty, now Professor of Space Physics, in 1996.

For further information contact:

Abigail Smith
Imperial College London Press Office
Tel: 020 7594 6701

Notes to editors:

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