MSSL Space Plasma Physics researchers celebrated by Royal Astronomical Society

17 January 2017

Dr. Zhonghua Yao and Prof. Chris Owen

We would like to offer our warmest congratulations to Professor Chris Owen and Dr. Zhonghua Yao, recipients of two prestigious awards from the Royal Astronomical Society. Prof. Owen will give the 2017 “James Dungey Lecture” and Dr. Yao was awarded the “Winton Capital Award” for research by a Post Doctoral Fellow in a UK institution whose career has shown the most promising development.

Chris is a former graduate student of Prof. Stanley W. H. Cowley who, alongside Prof. David Southwood, may be the two most preeminent scientists produced under Dungey’s tutelage.  Chris’ PhD concerned the micro-physics of magnetic reconnection and those models of reconnection are currently being tested by the NASA MMS mission, as well as the ESA Cluster satellites.  Chris has spent a significant fraction of his recent time on the physics of the magnetopause; that is, the boundary between the solar wind and Earth’s environment, carefully and rigorously testing the current prevailing theories and discovering new and crucial details on the microphysics of solar wind-magnetosphere interaction. Chris is also leading the development of the Solar Wind Analyser suite of instruments to be flown on ESA’s first Cosmic Visions L-class Mission, Solar Orbiter.

Zhonghua’s future in the field is as bright as it could possibly be.  Having graduated from Peking University in 2014, Zhonghua has collaborated with researchers around the world resulting in 34 high-impact publications (with an additional 3 in review) with 8 first author publications (2 in review), primarily on the microphysics of magnetic reconnection processes and their role in energy transfer in Earth’s environment. Zhonghua was also recognised by MSSL as an outstanding post-doctoral researcher with an excellent future in academia when he was awarded the MSSL Robert Boyd Award for Oustanding Research in 2015. The award resulted in large part from his authoring, or co-authoring, a staggering 18 papers in 18 months.  Unfortunately, Zhonghua left MSSL in late 2016, but our loss is certainly Liege’s gain and we hope to continue working with him for many, many years to come.

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