Physics awards for Strathclyders

Three physics researchers at the University of Strathclyde have received an international award for their work on the ground-breaking discovery of gravitational waves.

Professor Nicholas Lockerbie, Dr Kirill Tokmakov and Sharat Jawahar, all of Strathclyde’s Department of Physics, have received Special Breakthrough Prize Medals for Fundamental Physics. The Breakthrough Prizes were awarded to members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration by a group of entrepreneurs and philanthropists, including Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, his wife, Priscilla Chan and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Theory confirmed

The award recognises the part the researchers played in the discovery made by LIGO, the international project which has now confirmed the detection of gravitational waves from a second instance of two black holes colliding. The initial discovery, announced in 2016, confirmed directly the theory of the waves’ existence proposed by Albert Einstein a century earlier, as a significant part of his general theory of relativity.

Professor Lockerbie said: “I always thought that gravitational waves would be detected - but I didn’t think they would be detected before I retired.

“I’ve been involved in this area of research since 2003, in collaboration with the Institute for Gravitational Research, at the University of Glasgow. As well as the importance of this discovery to fundamental physics, from own my point of view it’s good to be involved in a challenging international project – and this was very challenging.

“I do hope that the worldwide acclaim which this work continues to receive will provide a stimulus to the long-term funding of bold high-risk and high-reward physics projects in the future.”

Sharat Jawahar, Professor Nicholas Lockerbie and Dr Kirill Tokmakov with their Special Breakthrough Prize Medals for Fundamental Physics. Professor Lockerbie is also holding his Royal Society of Edinburgh President's Medal

Professor Lockerbie has also received the President’s Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) for his contribution to the discovery of gravitational waves.

LIGO’s gravitational wave discovery was named the Physics World 2016 Breakthrough of the Year. The top 10 discoveries also included the mesolens, a new type of microscopic lens which captures images of far bigger samples than previously possible, pioneered at Strathclyde by Professor Gail McConnell and Professor Brad Amos.