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Physics student wins Institute of Physics Jocelyn Bell Burnell award

Bethan Cornell, PhD student in the Department of Physics, has been recognised as an exceptional early career female physicist.


Established in 2007, the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize is awarded by the Institute of Physics (IOP) in recognition of substantial contribution to physics and work to support and encourage others in the field.

At King’s, Bethan’s PhD topic is on ‘Unravelling the working mechanisms of fluorescent molecular rotors for bioimaging’. Her multi-disciplinary research in molecular physics focuses on furthering understanding of how light interacts with biological environments, specifically in application to the viscosity of cells in order to advance the understanding of diseases such as dementia and cancer.

Bethan’s nomination for the award also recognised her work promoting diversity and inclusion within the wider STEM field. She has contributed towards the IOP’s Gender Action activities and also worked with the Social Mobility Foundation and local councils in mentorship schemes aimed at supporting young people interested in STEM. Bethan has also worked with the Higher Education Policy Institute, and will soon be moving to a part-time PhD as she begins in a role at the Department of Education.

Commenting on receipt of this accolade from the IOP, Bethan said:

I am very grateful for the support that I received from Dr Eva Philippaki in encouraging me to put my name forward towards this award. This experience has really shown how a moment of kindness in doing something small for someone can have a great impact in shaping their future – this is something that I will take forward for the rest of my career.

Interim head of the Department of Physics, Dr Chris Lorenz, said:

I am very pleased for Bethan that her hard work has been recognised by the IOP with this award. Personally, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with her on aspects of her excellent PhD research. At the departmental level, Bethan has made significant contributions to the teaching and the culture of the department. Outside of King’s, she has been a great ambassador for the STEM subjects and King’s within the greater London community.