Thursday 7 January 2010

Return to the Dreaming Spires

After two years enjoying the Southern California sunshine at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I was offered the Glasstone Science Research fellowship to return to the UK and continue with my planetary research.  This was a tremendous opportunity - Oxford’s Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics department is an international player in the world of planetary science, with involvement in both NASA and ESA missions to all of the planets in the solar system, notably Jupiter and Saturn via the Galileo and Cassini missions.  It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Two Glasstone Fellowships are awarded each year, one for a man and one for a women, to conduct scientific research in a wide range of disciplines, from Plant Sciences, Chemistry (Inorganic, Organic or Physical), Engineering, Mathematics (including Computer Science and Statistics), Materials, and, thankfully, Physics.  Samuel Glasstone (b. 1897, d. 1986) was a popular science author on a wide range of topics, most notably on the environmental effects of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, and was hailed as one of the best technical writers of the 20th century.  Later he wrote, for NASA, books on space exploration (“Source book on Space Sciences”, 1965; “The Book of Mars”, 1968.  Glasstone’s wife,  Violette, had studied botany in Oxford, and upon his death he chose to leave the university a considerable sum of money to support young researchers from all over the world. 

As the lucky recipient of one of the Glasstone Fellowships, I’m enormously in their debt.  I intend to use the funds to continue my involvement in planetary exploration whilst broadening my horizons to other disciplines, seeking a cross-disciplinary interpretation of the new discoveries we make.  Finally, I believe that planetary science serves as a ‘beacon subject’, attracting bright young minds into scientific and engineering disciplines, so I hope I can play a role in making our results accessible to all.  With the global problems of climate change and adaptation that we face, encouraging a new generation of problem-solvers is the least we can do to help!