UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute


UCL quantum researchers receive prestigious physics prizes

29 November 2021

Two UCLQ researchers have been awarded prizes and medals from the Institute of Physics in recognition of their outstanding contributions to physics and public engagement.

Photos of Professor Faria (left) and Dr Li (right)

Among the five UCL academics that have been awarded prizes and medals from the Institute of Physics are two UCLQ researchers Professor Carla Figueira De Morisson Faria and Dr Ying Lia Li.

Professor Carla Figueira De Morisson Faria (UCL Physics & Astronomy and UCLQ) was awarded the 2021 Joseph Thomson Medal and Prize for her distinguished contributions to the theory of strong-field laser-matter interactions – that is, looking at how matter interacts with extremely strong lasers over a period of attoseconds (one quintillionth of a second).

As the award citation noted, Professor Faria has broken new ground as a world-leading physicist in the field. Her development of semi-analytical models, which brought together attoscience and mathematical physics, have provided vital tools to the physics community, while students she has supervised have won around 20 local, national and international prizes.

Dr Ying Lia Li (UCL Physics & Astronomy and UCLQ) was awarded the 2021 Clifford Paterson Medal and Prize for combining her quantum sensing research with her industrial experience in silicon chips to create a pioneering start-up, Zero Point Motion, and for her drive to build a better and more supportive research community.

Dr Li is a leading researcher in quantum sensing and optomechanics (the use of laser light to control the motion of mechanical vibration). Her quantum sensors, potentially 10,000 times more sensitive than current motion sensors in smartphones, will enable precise position sensing when GPS is unavailable, for example within indoor or underground environments.

The citation praised Dr Li for being an advocate of equity in science. She led the Women in Physics group at UCL between 2017 and 2019 and is currently a member of UCL’s Race Equality Steering Group.

The Institute of Physics (IOP) is the professional body and learned society for physics, and the leading body for practicing physicists, in the UK and Ireland. The IOP annual awards celebrate excellence in physics across research, education, outreach, and application and proudly reflect the wide variety of people, places, organisations, and achievements that make physics such an exciting discipline. 

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said: “I congratulate those colleagues whose ground-breaking research and related activities have been deservedly celebrated by these prestigious awards. It is striking that UCL’s capability in and contribution to the discipline of physics spans such a diverse set of activities: from optical communications, semi-analytical modelling and quantum sensing imaging, to nuclear medicine and engagement with young people.”

Congratulating this year’s award winners, Institute of Physics President, Professor Sheila Rowan, said: “On behalf of the Institute of Physics, I warmly congratulate all of this year’s award winners. Each and every one of them has made a significant and positive impact in their profession, whether as a researcher, teacher, industrialist, technician, or apprentice.  

“Recent events have underlined the absolute necessity to encourage and reward our scientists and those who teach and encourage future generations. We rely on their dedication and innovation to improve many aspects of the lives of individuals and of our wider society.”


Photograph of Professor Faria (left) and Dr Li (right).