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Four Bristol scientists elected as new Fellows of the Royal Society

Left to right: Stafford Lightman, Tim Elliott, Sandu Popescu and Andrew Orr-Ewing

Press release issued: 5 May 2017

Four University of Bristol academics have achieved the rare distinction of being elected Fellows of the world’s most eminent and oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, the Royal Society.

Professor Sandu Popescu from the School of Physics, Professor Andrew Orr-Ewing from the School of Chemistry, Professor Tim Elliott from the School of Earth Sciences and Professor Stafford Lightman from the School of Clinical Sciences have been awarded the prestigious accolade for their outstanding contributions to science.

In total 50 distinguished scientists were elected as Fellows of the Royal Society and 10 as new Foreign Members. 

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine.

The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

Professor Elliott's research uses high precision isotopic measurements to address major problems in Earth and Planetary Science.  He has studied how the Earth melts and remixes these melt products over its history.  He has also been interested in the application of the similar tools to investigate the evolution of the surface environment of the planet.  Most recently he has focused on constraining the timing and style of planetary accretion in the early solar system. The mass spectrometry and clean laboratories he has helped established at Bristol have been central to these endeavours.

Professor Lightman works on the regulation of the hormones that are released in response to stress and how these hormones affect the function of the brain and metabolic system.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted to receive this accolade. It is particularly rewarding to know that even though I work in the relatively small area of neuroendocrinology, The Royal Society feels that the advances we have made are of sufficient importance to warrant election to their fellowship."

Professor Orr-Ewing’s research area is the study of chemical reaction mechanisms using laser spectroscopy. In addition to the fundamental interest in how chemistry occurs, the work has applications in areas such as the chemistry of the Earth's atmosphere. 

He said: "This is a tremendous honour, and is also a reflection on the superb environment for research which the School of Chemistry and the University of Bristol provide."

Professor Popescu's main research interest is in fundamental aspects of quantum physics. A major focus of his research has been quantum entanglement and non-locality. This led him to do pioneering work in what became the area of quantum information and computation and to establish some of the central concepts of this new field.

He said: "I'm very honoured to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. I would like to use this occasion to thank my family, which has supported me throughout all these years, my mentor, Yakir Aharonov, from whom I learned so much and my friends and colleagues without which none of this would have been possible.

"It is only by working together, bouncing ideas from one another, that my discoveries were made. Last but not least, I want to thank the University of Bristol that has been my loving home for the last 17 years, one of the best places in the world to do the research that I'm doing, a place where I come with pleasure every single day."

University of Bristol Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Hugh Brady, said: "We are delighted to celebrate the election of four new Fellows to the Royal Society.

"This a well-deserved honour for four of Bristol's most successful researchers who are not only at the cutting edge of discovery in their academic disciplines but also wonderful contributors to Bristol's inspiring and stretching research-rich learning environment."

Professor Tim Gallagher, Dean of Science at the University of Bristol, said: "This is terrific news and reflects, first and foremost, on the achievements of these people as individuals and as scientists. 

"It also reflects on the environment we offer here in Bristol that allows great people to realise their potential."

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, added: "Science is a great triumph of human achievement and has contributed hugely to the prosperity and health of our world.

"In the coming decades it will play an increasingly crucial role in tackling the great challenges of our time including food, energy, health and the environment.

"The new Fellows of the Royal Society have already contributed much to science and it gives me great pleasure to welcome them into our ranks."


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