College of Science scoops four prestigious Leverhulme Research Fellowships

Two female scientists in Swansea University’s College of Science have received Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowships out of seven awarded this year by The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science.

The College of Science has been remarkably successful this year as Professor Chris Allton and Dr Stefan Eriksson also received Leverhulme Research Fellowships.

Professor Tavi Murray, Department of Geography and Dr Sophie Schirmer, Associate Professor, Department of Physics have been awarded prestigious Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowships fighting off strong competition from around the UK. 

Tavi MurrayThe fellowships scheme is designed to allow scientists to make major progress in their area of study by undertaking full-time research. Professor Murray has received her fellowship to research the interactions between ice and ocean at the margins of glaciers in southeast Greenland while Dr Schirmer is researching new paradigms for magnetic resonance molecular imaging via quantum control.

‌Professor Murray said: "I am really excited to be able to concentrate on research for the coming year: I'm going to be working on iceberg calving especially in south-east Greenland. Glaciers that calve icebergs are a primary control on how much water the Greenland ice sheet contributes to global sea level rise. It's a key time to work on this area - our group has just shown a new calving process operates in Greenland which isn't included in models as yet. I'm particularly excited to be collaborating with oceanographers for this project."

Sophie SchirmerDr Sophie Schirmer said: “I'm very excited to be able to devote myself fully to applying my expertise in quantum control to my recently acquired interest in magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy.  This is an exciting field with many potential applications including in the early detection of biomarkers for diseases from cancer to dementia, and I hope that this fellowship will enable myself and our medical imaging team to make a significant contribution to this field."

Professor Chris Allton, Department of Physics studies how fundamental particles interact under extreme conditions. Virtually all of the observed matter in the universe is made up of protons and neutrons which contain quarks bound incredibly tightly together by the "Strong" force. However at incredibly large temperatures of several trillion Celsius, quarks become nearly free and a new and poorly understood "Quark-Gluon Plasma" (QGP) phase is created. The QGP is important because it was the universe's first state of matter, just after the Big Bang.

Chris AlltonIt can also be studied on earth using particle physics facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider in CERN. In these experiments atomic nuclei are crashed into each other at nearly the speed of light to create an incredibly small QGP. With the Leverhulme award, Chris will use supercomputer simulations to understand the fate of protons and neutrons under these extreme conditions adding to our knowledge of the QGP.

‌Speaking after the award announcement, Professor Allton said: "I'm incredibly excited to receive this Leverhulme award. It will allow me the time to really concentrate on this exciting research so that I can hopefully make real progress."

Dr Stefan Eriksson, a Reader in the Department of Physics, was awarded the Leverhulme Fellowship to conduct the first ever laser spectroscopic measurement of the 1S - 2S energy interval in antihydrogen trapped in the ALPHA apparatus at CERN. The ALPHA collaboration at CERN is currently finalising the upgraded antihydrogen trapping apparatus in order to be ready for the start of the eagerly awaited particle run in the autumn 2014. 

Dr Eriksson said: “Our Universe was born with equal amounts of matter and antimatter, but for some reason antimatter appears to be incredibly rare today. I will be studying trapped antihydrogen under laboratory conditions at CERN to see if the anti-atom differs from an ordinary hydrogen atom. The atom and anti-atom should be very closely similar and any difference in the two might hint at a way to explain the antimatter conundrum. I’m thrilled to work with the ALPHA collaboration at CERN on the first ever laser spectroscopic measurement of antihydrogen.”


The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 under the Will of the First Viscount Leverhulme with the instruction that its resources should be used to support “scholarships for the purposes of research and education.” More information is available from http://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. For further information please visit http://royalsociety.org