Nottingham academics win three Leverhulme Prizes

Nottingham academics win three Leverhulme Prizes

PA 288/09

A trio of "˜outstanding scholars who have made a substantial and recognised contribution to their particular field of study’ have been awarded 2009 Philip Leverhulme Prizes in three out of the annual competition’s five categories.

The University of Nottingham academics will each receive prize funding totalling 70,000 recognising the excellence of their research to date. Nottingham’s winners are: Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer (pictured) from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering; Dr Christopher Conselice from the Department of Physics and Astronomy; and Dr Stephen Legg from the University’s School of Geography.

With annual funding of some 50 million, the Leverhulme Trust is amongst the largest all subject providers of research funding in the UK. Winners of the Philip Leverhulme Prize are recognised at an international level, and their future contributions are held to be of correspondingly high promise.

Professor David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Nottingham, said: “It is a rare honour for academics to be recognised with a Philip Leverhulme Prize. I am very pleased to hear of the well deserved praise these three academics have received. In the past year the quality of our research across the University attracted record funding of 140 million.

“These individuals represent bright examples of the high quality research that saw nearly 60 per cent of all research at The University of Nottingham defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. On behalf of the University, I’d like to congratulate each winner on their success.”

Citing the reasons for presenting an Astronomy and Astrophysics Prize to Dr Christopher Conselice, the Trust said: “Dr Conselice has gained an international reputation for his work on the formation and evolution of galaxies, analysing the information recorded by telescopes to elucidate important episodes in their evolution, dating stellar populations, and identifying the processes which have formed galaxies into the multitude of types seen today.

“His major contributions have been in two key areas of extragalactic astronomy: galaxy structure and its evolution with cosmic time, and the history of the galactic merge rate. Dr Conselice played a critical role in developing an empirical observational methodology for studying galaxy evolution, which has become a standard. His recent work focuses on how the galaxy formation process drives the formation of black holes, star formation, and how stars and dark matter assemble together.”

About Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer’s award in the Engineering category, the Trust said: “Professor Maroto-Valer has focused on some of the most critical problems in energy science, working at the interface between energy and the environment, developing novel solutions to meet the demand for cost-effective and environmentally-friendly energy.

“She has secured international recognition for her research in carbon capture and storage (CCS), which has been pivotal for the development of new CCS technologies. Her work is characterised by the innovative use of a range of physical and chemical approaches applied to complex materials, spanning oil field brines, coals as carbon-capture agents and waste materials.

“Some of Professor Maroto-Valer’s more recent research has been in the field of mercury capture from power plant flues gases, and her future plans will concentrate on converting CO2 into a sustainable energy carrier.”

Dr Stephen Legg’s success in the Geography subject area was because: “Dr Legg is an accomplished scholar whose explorations of governmentality in relation to various aspects of the spatial politics of south Asia transcend disciplinary sub-divisions. His book Spaces of Colonialism is a landmark study of colonial governmentality and a model of how to combine original theoretical and empirical work to best effect.

“His work amplifies the inherent spatiality of Foucault’s project, raising the impact of geographical thinking in transdisciplinary communities of post-colonial and subaltern studies. His research reputation and audience are unusually well developed for such a young scholar and signal a scholar of outstanding potential as well as demonstrable achievement.”

The Leverhulme Trust, established at the wish of William Hesketh Lever, the first Viscount Leverhulme, makes awards for the support of research and education. The Trust emphasises individuals and encompasses all subject areas.

Reacting to her prize, Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer, an expert in energy and the environment whose research interests encompass carbon management, including CO2 capture, storage and utilization, said: “The Philip Leverhulme Prize will help me to further elevate my international research profile to become a world leader. It is my firm conviction that by 2050 a large proportion of our fuels will come from the systems I am developing if crucial research is enabled and recognised.”

Astronomer and astrophysicist Dr Christopher Conselice said: “Winning the Leverhulme Prize is a great honour obviously, but is especially so given that it is only awarded every two or three years in my field. It is also an internationally recognised prize for young investigators, and I am grateful for having been awarded it.

“The Leverhulme Prize will not only help me carry out a new line of research into galaxy formation and cosmology, but it is also a great encouragement to continue to perform innovative cutting edge investigations in astronomy.”

Dr Stephen Legg said: “The Leverhulme Prize is unique in that it recognises an individual on the basis of their work to date and allows them to spend the generous funds in the way they feel will best benefit their future career. The award will allow me to conclude my current projects on the spatial politics of imperialism in interwar India and move on to an analysis of anti-colonial nationalist movements.

“It will grant me time out of teaching to focus on language training, literature reviews, and archival research in the UK and in India and, as such, presents an incredible opportunity to forge new collaborations and avenues of research.”

The Philip Leverhulme Prizes commemorate the contribution to the work of the Trust made by Philip Leverhulme, the Third Viscount Leverhulme and grandson of the Founder. The broad fields of research covered by this year’s awards were: Astronomy and Astrophysics; Engineering; Geography; Modern European Languages and Literature; and Performing and Visual Arts.

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