The University of Southampton

Prestigious research awards breaks £1 million mark

Published: 29 August 2014

The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, has awarded three University of Southampton professors Wolfson Research Merit Awards for their outstanding research work.

Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award recognises talented scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.

The awards mean that total funding from the Wolfson Foundation for Awards at Southampton has now exceeded £1 million.

Professor Graham Reed, from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre, received his award for his research into ‘Silicon Photonics for the 21st Century’. Silicon photonics uses light (photons) to move huge amounts of data at very high speeds with extremely low power and is one of the most rapidly growing technologies in the world today.

Professor Reed says: “I am absolutely delighted and honoured to be selected for a prestigious Wolfson Research Merit Award, especially given the long list of previous eminent recipients. It will enable me to continue the development of Silicon Photonics at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at Southampton. My group joined Southampton just over two years ago and we have made some important progress, and we look forward to continuing that work with the support from the Royal Society.”

Dr Alistair Pike, a Reader in Archaeological Sciences, received his award for his research into ‘Robust chronologies and isotopic windows on human behaviour’. The research focuses on using geochemical methods to date fossil bone, which provides archaeological timelines to better understand the origins of modern humans and their relationship to archaic species, such as Neanderthals. Dr Pike also uses methods to track past human and animal movement to reveal seasonal migration and the different patterns of landscape use between Neanderthals and modern humans.

Dr Pike says: “Archaeological human remains and tools are very static indicators of past human behaviour; a snapshot of their point of death, burial or discard. But now, using laser sampled strontium isotopes, we can track past human movement on an almost day by day basis. I’m thrilled that the Royal Society has chosen to support this research which has huge potential to reveal a far more detailed picture of many aspects of past human behaviour.”

Professor Paul Wilson, from Ocean and Earth Science, was recognised for his work on ‘Perturbations and transitions in Cenozoic climate states’. His research focuses on two questions: How and why has climate changed through Earth’s history? What are the lessons from this palaeo-record for the year 2050 and beyond?

Professor Wilson says: “I am pleased to have been selected for a Wolfson Research Merit Award. It will help me to break new ground in researching the climate lessons that lurk in the geological record. It’s a pressing problem; by the time that my six-year old daughter is my grandmother’s age, mankind is on-track to increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to concentrations that we haven’t seen geologically for tens of millions of years. Back then, Earth’s climate looked alarmingly different to today. I look forward to driving our work forward together with my students and colleagues and with the support of the Royal Society.”

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, says: “The Wolfson Merit Awards, administered by the Royal Society, form part of the Wolfson Foundation’s wider funding to support outstanding research at British universities. The Awards are highly competitive and it is testament to the range and quality of research at Southampton that they have been so successful.” 

Find out more about the Wolfson Awards.

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