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Three MPLS scientists awarded Royal Society Research Professorships

Three of this year’s six Royal Society Research Professorships have been awarded to scientists in Oxford University's MPLS Division (Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences). These are the Royal Society’s premier research awards, and provide long-term support for internationally recognised scientists of exceptional accomplishments from a range of diverse fields.

The MPLS awardees are Professor Georg Gottlob in the Department of Computer Science, Professor J.C. Séamus Davis in the Department of Physics, and Professor Jonathan Blundy, who moves to the Department of Earth Sciences in July 2020 to take up his Research Professorship.

The Research Professorships help release researchers from competing duties, such as teaching and administration, allowing them to focus on ambitious and original research of the highest quality. The awards also enable distinguished, international research talent to relocate to a UK academic institution.

Professor Sam Howison, Head of MPLS Division, said: 'This is wonderful news and I am absolutely delighted for the recipients. These positions sit at the pinnacle of UK science and their award is a testament to the extraordinary quality of Oxford's science across the board. We all look forward to seeing the fruits of their research as it develops."

Professor Gottlob said: 'I am very excited to be awarded this Research Professorship. It will allow me to continue my research on efficient rule-based reasoning and study how this method can be combined with machine learning. The Royal Society Professorship allows me to fully concentrate on this research, and to start building a new team. There is no better place for this project than the Department of Computer Science at Oxford. The Department is already a top research hub for both machine learning and rule-based knowledge representation and reasoning. The time has now come to study how these two approaches can be combined fruitfully. I hope we will make significant progress over the years ahead.'

Professor Davis commented: 'For me, this is a delightfully timely confluence of scientific opportunities. We have developed two new modalities for visualising fundamental states of quantum matter just as the superlative facilities ideally suited to such research come online. Atomic scale visualisation of quantum spin liquids requires world class ultra-low-vibration and ultra-low-temperature (ULVT) lab facilities – and the next-generation ULVT labs some 30m underground in the new Beecroft building at Oxford University perform these functions superbly.'

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said: 'We are delighted with the six appointments made in this year’s Royal Society Research Professorship competition. The newly appointed Research Professors join a world-class cohort of leading scientists that have and continue to make exceptional contributions to science. This type of investment in world-leading talent is crucial to the continued success of UK science.'

The other three Research Professorships were awarded to:

Professor Richard Thomas FRS, Topics in algebraic geometry, Imperial College London. Professor Thomas has an Oxford connection, having completed his DPhil in the Mathematical Institute under the supervision of Prof Simon Donaldson, now at Imperial.

Professor Henning Sirringhaus FRS, Nanoscale characterisation of charge and heat transport across interfaces in novel, molecular thermoelectric materials, University of Cambridge

Professor Jennifer Thomas CBE FRS, Peering at neutrino oscillations with a magnifier, University College London