SCAN Interviews: Dr Sarah Badman

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Lancaster University physicist, Dr Sarah Badman, has been awarded a prestigious prize from the Royal Astronomical Society.

Dr Badman was awarded the Fowler Award for Geophysics for her research into the aurora within the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn. The Fowler Award is given to early-career physicists who have made a contribution to their own field of research and is in memory of the Fowler family, a well-known family of physicists.

Speaking to SCAN Dr Badman said that she was “really honoured” to receive such a prestigious award. She noted that it was nice to win but she was more overwhelmed by the fact that she had been nominated by her fellow physicists and people within the community saying that “it’s really nice to have that peer recognition”.

In an interview Dr Badman talked about how her school choices of science and maths were the main reason for her initial involvement in physics and led to her continuing in it as a career. Dr Badman told SCAN: “When I was younger I wanted to be an astronaut and then realised that actually I probably couldn’t do that but I was still interested in space”.

Dr Badman has spent the majority of her time since beginning her PhD “trying to understand why the aurora look the way they do and how they vary over time, and ultimately how that’s controlled by the sun and the sun’s environment.”

However, in March of this year she will be starting a new research fellowship in which she has the opportunity to measure the particles close to the atmosphere. Dr Badman told SCAN that this “will really be the first time that a spacecraft has done that at Jupiter so it will be the best opportunity to understand what drives Jupiter’s aurora”.

As one of few recognised female physicists, Dr Badman is keen to figure out why so few women take up physics at university and as a career. She is a coordinator of the Women in Physics Group and she told SCAN the group are “trying to figure out how we can encourage more women to come and how to keep them going onto research careers”.

Dr Badman was described by the Royal Astronomical Society as an “outstanding young scientist” and one whose “outstanding research has been recognised by several prestigious fellowships and she is regarded as one of the top early-career planetary physicists in the world”.

Along with the winners of other awards, Dr Badman will be invited to collect her award from the Society at their 2016 National Astronomy Meeting in June.

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