SWINDON, 09-Aug-2016 — /EuropaWire/ — An early career researcher who has made a key contribution to the European Space Agency’s gravitational wave observatory demonstrator LISA Pathfinder has won a prestigious award for his work on fundamental physics in space.
Dr Ewan Fitzsimons, who works at STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre, has been presented with the ‘Yakov B. Zeldovich Medal’, a joint prize from COSPAR and the Russian Academy of Science which is awarded to young scientists every two years for ‘excellence and achievements’ in space research.
COSPAR works to promote scientific research in space on an international level and this award is for work carried out by Ewan as a PhD student at the University of Glasgow and later at Astrium Germany (now Airbus DS) and he has been honoured for “his key role in the design, development, construction, and testing of the flight model interferometer for LISA Pathfinder and his significant contribution to the system definition and technology demonstration of the optical bench for the future LISA Mission.”
LISA Pathfinder, launched in December 2015, has already been a huge scientific success and has shown that a full scale space-based gravitational wave observatory is achievable; such a mission in space would provide a whole new way of observing the Universe.
Receiving the award, Ewan said: “It is an exciting time for gravitational waves with the first ever detection announced in February. To have been involved in the design and development of LISA Pathfinder which has been such a success in paving the way for future spacecraft to explore gravitational waves is wonderful. I am looking forward to taking what we have learned from LISA Pathfinder and using it to help make the full LISA mission a reality. Hopefully the current buzz around gravitational waves will inspire more young people to take up a career in science.”
Dr Harry Ward, from the Institute for Gravitational Research at the University of Glasgow said of the award: “Very early in his PhD programme at the Institute for Gravitational Research Ewan became a key member of the small team developing the optical metrology system that would fly at the heart of the LISA Pathfinder mission. Ewan became the lead person developing the final optical design for the LPF flight model and in parallel, he developed many of the novel alignment and assembly techniques that proved essential in achieving the extremely challenging tolerances required. For someone to have contributed so much to a highly significant ESA mission at such an early stage in his research training and career is quite exceptional.”
Dr Ulrich Johann, Head of Science & Earth Observation Future Program and Missions and Senior Expert Space Science at Airbus, said: “Airbus Defence & Space in Friedrichshafen, have been engaged for a long time in the development of both LISA Pathfinder and LISA proper/eLISA. Ewan´s background, experience and skill´s quickly proved to be essential in pursuing key system and technology developments in the project.”
Professor Gillian Wright, Director of UKATC, said: “This is a great achievement of a member of our staff and I am absolutely delighted Ewan’s work and skills are being recognised at the level of the COSPAR awards”.
Ewan’s studentship and the early work he undertook at the University of Glasgow was initially funded by STFC. His later work and his 3-year postdoctoral position at the University of Glasgow was funded by the UK Space Agency.
STFC Media Manager
COSPAR works to promote on an international level scientific research in space, with emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions, and to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research. As part of that work it awards medals and honours at its bi-annual Scientific Assembly for outstanding contributions to space science and space research.
SOURCE: Science and Technology Facilities Council