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Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis, Director of Research at Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre, has been awarded the 2021 Institute of Physics Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Medal and Prize for distinguished contributions to plasma, solar or space physics.

Photograph of Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis
Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis, Director of Research at Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre

The Institute of Physics (IOP) is the professional body and learned society for physics, and the leading body for practising physicists in the UK and Ireland.

Mihalis, a renowned international expert in solar physics, received the award for pioneering contributions to the development of high-cadence large-format cameras for next-generation astrophysical telescopes and their application to dynamic imaging of the Sun's atmosphere.

Commenting on the award, Mihalis said: “I am delighted to receive the Institute of Physics Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Medal and Prize. It has been a privilege to have contributed to the development of novel solar imaging equipment and this award recognises not only my own contribution, but also that of the academics and industry partners, such as Andor Technology, with whom I have worked in collaboration to achieve these technological advancements.”

Mihalis led the development of novel cameras that have been successfully used on the world's largest solar telescope. The cameras, developed in collaboration with the Northern Irish company, Andor Technology and named ‘Balor' after the supernatural beings of Irish mythology, were successfully used as first-light detectors on the 4m Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST).

The images captured by the cameras - the highest resolution snapshots of the Sun's atmosphere ever recorded - featured on the front cover of the New York Times in 2020 and were voted as "one of the best science images of 2020" by Nature magazine.

Congratulating this year’s IOP Award winners, Institute of Physics President, Professor Sheila Rowan, said: “On behalf of the Institute of Physics, I warmly congratulate all of this year’s Award winners. Each and every one of them has made a significant and positive impact in their profession, whether as a researcher, teacher, industrialist, technician or apprentice.

“Recent events have underlined the absolute necessity to encourage and reward our scientists and those who teach and encourage future generations. We rely on their dedication and innovation to improve many aspects of the lives of individuals and of our wider society."