The first Stephen Hawking Fellows, announced today, will continue Professor Stephen Hawking’s legacy by furthering our understanding of the universe and communicating the wonders of science to the public.
Two of the nine fellows are from The University of Manchester, Dr Danai Antonopoulou and Dr Stefan Schact, who has recently joined from Cornell University.
They will tackle major scientific questions such as the nature of the early universe and dark matter and whether string theory really is a ‘theory of everything’, engaging with the public through stand-up comedy, art and music.
The Stephen Hawking Fellowships were launched by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), working with the Hawking family, in recognition of Stephen Hawking’s exceptional contributions to scientific knowledge and popularisation of science.
Professor Stephen Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim Hawking, said: “We are proud to be associated with this initiative, which builds on the legacy of our father by supporting research into these areas of science.
“One of his greatest achievements was opening up even the most complex scientific breakthroughs to the wider world and we hope that these Fellows are able to continue that important mission by inspiring people from all walks of life in the wonders of science.”
Dr Schacht aims to build on last year’s observation of the unique phenomenon of matter-antimatter asymmetry in a form of particle called the D0 meson, to take us one step closer to answering our big questions about the fundamental laws of nature.
He plans to engage the wider public by establishing a programme for particle physics at the Bluedot festival, an annual music, science and art festival at the Jodrell Bank Observatory site.
Based at the Jodrell Bank Centre of Astrophysics, Dr Antonopoulou will advance our knowledge of neutron stars and their unusual physical properties, such as superfluidity and superconductivity and the nature of extremely dense matter.
A detailed public engagement programme aimed at school children and students, and targeting underrepresented groups, will aim to inspire them about astrophysics and science in general.
"We are proud to be associated with this initiative, which builds on the legacy of our father by supporting research into these areas of science. One of his greatest achievements was opening up even the most complex scientific breakthroughs to the wider world and we hope that these Fellows are able to continue that important mission by inspiring people from all walks of life in the wonders of science."
Lucy, Robert and Tim Hawking
UKRI will support up to 50 postdoctoral scientists through the Stephen Hawking Fellowships scheme, with further calls to be launched in due course.
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “Professor Stephen Hawking pushed forward the boundaries of human knowledge, both through his research which transformed our understanding of the universe and his rare talent for communication.
“The Fellows announced today will continue his legacy, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and inspiring the public with the value and beauty of science.”
Each fellowship provides up to four years’ funding, dependent on the nature of the proposed research, for fellows with a strong passion for curiosity-driven science, who seek to challenge current assumptions and inspire the public through their work.
Fellows will be supported with training in public engagement and scientific communication to help them inspire a wider audience to explore complex scientific ideas, continuing Professor Hawking’s legacy of bringing science into popular culture.
The Stephen Hawking Fellowships are delivered by UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the funding as part of a major investment which also funding to improve and boost uptake of science subjects at school.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Making sure that the next generation has the scientific skills to meet the world’s needs – from developing green technologies to curing illnesses – couldn’t be more important.
“That’s why we continue to invest in science programmes in our schools and ensure that anyone, regardless of their background, can participate.