Lancaster University

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Early career prize for former journalist turned physicist

05/13/2011 00:00:00


A Lancaster PhD student is celebrating winning a major early career award. Former journalist Cherry Canovan decided to study science after writing stories about the lack of women in physics.

She was named the Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year at a ceremony in London organised by the Institute of Physics and sponsored by Shell. The award was presented by Amanda Cooper-Sarker, Professor of Particle Physics at Oxford University.

Cherry said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been awarded this prize, which I hope will encourage other women – and who knows, maybe even some other young mums – to believe that they too can have a successful career in physics.”

She was awarded the £1,000 prize for her published work on problems in classical electrodynamics, as well as her interest in helping other women get involved in physics. She founded the department’s Women in Physics group two years ago, since when it has held many meetings and encouraged women from all career stages and research groups to get to know one another.

The 39-year-old took an unusual route into science, having had a successful career in journalism before embarking on an undergraduate physics degree just after the birth of her first child.

She said: “I was working as science correspondent of the Times Educational Supplement and wrote so many stories about shortages of female physicists that I decided to take personal action. I started to study physics with some trepidation, but I need not have been worried: the advice and support given to me by the department was of the first order. This experience has encouraged me to try to offer others the help and support that was so generously given to me.”

The award celebrates the work of female physicists who have completed their first physics degree in the last five years. Successful candidates must show that they have made a substantial academic contribution as well as supporting and encouraging others in the field.

Cherry’s PhD supervisor, Professor Robin Tucker, said: “I am very pleased to learn of this award for Cherry. I hope it will encourage other women to realise that studying mathematical physics can be rewarding in many different ways.”