Philippa Browning awarded Chapman Medal

Professor Philippa Browning, who is Professor of Astrophysics at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester and an Institute of Physics fellow has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s Chapman Medal in recognition of “her pioneering work on energy release by magnetic relaxation in stressed coronal magnetic fields”.

Professor Philippa Browning

The Chapman Medal is awarded for investigations of outstanding merit in solar-terrestrial physics including geomagnetism and aeronomy. It is 100 years ago that the Royal Astronomical Society first awarded fellowships to female astronomers – a milestone in the acceptance of women in science. The BBC are running a section on Watching the Heavens to celebrate this milestone.

Professor Browning’s research combines two different areas of plasma physics to the benefit of both. Her pioneering work in the 1980s on energy release by magnetic relaxation in stressed coronal magnetic fields formed the basis of an entire field of study of coronal heating, invoking MHD instabilities in the role of so-called “nano-flares”. More recently she has been leading work to confront her early analytical work with state of the art numerical simulations, and finding excellent agreement. She has extended her work into complex magnetic geometries representative of the tangled corona and investigated how relaxation can also lead to the acceleration of particles in solar flares.

In short, Philippa Browning has provided an original, innovative and seminal model to solve an outstanding problem in solar astrophysics and has demonstrated its viability and utility through numerical simulations.

Prof Browning also chairs the IOP’s Plasma Physics Group and is on the advisory panel of the Institute’s Women in Physics Group

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