Solar Orbiter expert among trio of 2023 Thesis Prize winners

Dr Jesse Coburn (left), Dr Georgina Dransfield and Dr Lawrence Jones are the winners of the 2023 Thesis Prizes.
Dr Jesse Coburn (left) is the winner of the Keith Runcorn Prize 2023, Dr Georgina Dransfield of the Michael Penston Thesis Prize 2023 and Dr Lawrence Jones of the Patricia Tomkins Thesis Prize 2023.
Royal Astronomical Society

The Royal Astronomical Society is pleased to announce the winners of its prizes for the best PhD theses completed in the UK in 2023.

Prizes are awarded annually: the Michael Penston Prize for the best thesis in astronomy and astrophysics, the Keith Runcorn Prize for the best thesis in geophysics and planetary science, and the Patricia Tomkins Prize for the best thesis in instrumentation science for astronomy and geophysics.

The Michael Penston Thesis Prize 2023

The Michael Penston Thesis Prize 2023 has been awarded to Dr Georgina Dransfield for the thesis entitled 'Planetary systems unlike the Solar system's'.

Prior to embarking on her research career, Dr Dransfield was a secondary school teacher for several years, teaching Physics at schools in London and Worcester.

She completed her MSc in 2020 and PhD in 2023, both at the University of Birmingham under the supervision of Professor Amaury Triaud. Her research in the field of exoplanets has focused on the discovery and characterisation of diverse planetary systems, using space and ground-based telescopes.

As part of her thesis work, Dr Dransield travelled to Chile and Antarctica for technical missions on the SPECULOOS and ASTEP telescopes, respectively.

Dr Dransield is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Birmingham, but will be joining Magdalen College, Oxford in January as a Junior Research Fellow. During her fellowship she intends to investigate Warm Jupiters - gas giants like Jupiter but with orbits of between 20-200 days - to learn more about their formation.

The runner-up for the Michael Penston Thesis Prize 2023 is William Roper, of the University of Sussex, with a thesis entitled 'A tale of birds and bug fixes: computational astrophysics in the Epoch of Reionisation'.

The Patricia Tomkins Thesis Prize 2023

The winner of the Patricia Tomkins Thesis Prize 2023 is Dr Lawrence Jones for the thesis entitled 'Advancements in image sensor technology for soft X-ray spectroscopy in space: CIS detectors for the Auroral X-ray Imaging Spectrometer'.

Dr Jones graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 2019 before starting his PhD at the Open University the same year.

His thesis work was primarily focussed on the Auroral X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (AXIS) instrument, proposed to fly aboard various ISRO aeronomy missions, and the use of the CIS221-X X-ray optimised CIS detector.

Dr Jones also had the opportunity to contribute to instrument development for the SMILE and THESEUS missions, and analysis of the CLASS instrument aboard Chandrayaan-2 while in flight around the Moon.

He has now moved to RAL Space to work within the Imaging Systems Division, where he hopes to contribute to the next generation of space-based imaging instruments at the UK's national space laboratory.

The runner-up for the Patricia Tomkins Thesis Prize 2023 is Dr Thomas Sweetnam, of the University of Manchester, with a thesis entitled ‘Development of Superconducting Parametric Amplifiers for Astrophysics Applications’.

The Keith Runcorn Thesis Prize 2023

The winner of the Keith Runcorn Prize 2023 is Dr Jesse Coburn for the thesis entitled 'The Effective Mean-Free-Path of the Solar Wind'.

Dr Coburn completed his BSc in Physics at the University of New Hampshire in the US, where he worked as a research assistant for Research Professor Charles W. Smith.

He went on to hold graduate research posts at the University of Calabria in Italy under Dr Luca Sorriso-Valvo and Professor Francesco Valentini, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico in the US under Research Scientists Fan Guo and Xiangrong Fu.

Dr Coburn recently completed his PhD under Dr Christopher Chen and Professor David Burgess. He is currently a Research Fellow in Space Plasma Physics at University College London, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, where he works on the European Space Agency spacecraft mission Solar Orbiter under Professor Christopher J. Owen and Dr Daniel Verscharen.

The runner-up for the Keith Runcorn Thesis Prize 2023 is Dr Joe McNeil, of the Open University, with a thesis entitled ‘Mounds in Chryse Planitia and Oxia Planum, Mars: an unrecognised archive of Noachian geology’.

Congratulations to all of our winners and runners up!


Media contact

Sam Tonkin

Royal Astronomical Society

Mob: +44 (0)7802 877700


Notes for editors

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Submitted by Sam Tonkin on Mon, 01/07/2024 - 11:37