UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy


UCL Physicist receives 2016 award from Institute of Physics

1 July 2016

Alexandra Olaya Castro


The Institute of Physics (IOP) has announced the winners of their medals and prizes for 2016, in recognition of outstanding work by physicists in research, leadership, outreach and engagement.

Sixteen medal winners have been announced, including Dr Alexandra Olyaya-Castro (UCL Physics & Astronomy) for her contributions to the theory of quantum effects in biomolecular systems. The award particularly recognises her work on the understanding of exciton-vibration interactions and the emergence of nontrivial quantum behaviour in photosynthetic complexes.

President of the IOP, Professor Roy Sambles, said of all those winning awards this year: “The IOP Awards recognise outstanding individuals and teams within our physics community, not only to celebrate their creativity, hard work and dedication but also to inspire others to strive to achieve excellence in what they do.”

Dr Alexandra Olaya-Castro has played a central international role in the field of quantum biology, an emergent interdisciplinary research area aimed at understanding whether quantum-mechanical phenomena are important for the function of biomolecules.

By making use of modern theoretical quantum science, which focuses on identifying quantum-enhanced performance, together with techniques in physical chemistry and biology, she has pioneered a new generation of theoretical approaches for understanding quantum effects in photosynthesis.

She has since lead research at UCL to push the boundaries of our understanding of the quantum dynamics of electronic excitations in the initial stages of photosynthesis, and the influence of quantum coherence.

The conceptual importance of her work has been widely recognised both in the UK and worldwide, and the research that Olaya-Castro is leading will be showcased at the UK’s Royal Society Science Summer exhibition 2016.