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Durham University News

News

World-leading researcher into the origin of galaxies receives Royal Astronomical Society’s highest honour

(10 January 2014)

Professor Carlos Frenk

Professor Carlos Frenk

A Durham University professor, who is one of the originators behind a theory for the origin of galaxies and the structure of the Universe, has been honoured for his world-leading research.

Professor Carlos Frenk, Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics and Director of Durham’s Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC), received the Royal Astronomical Society’s highest honour, the Gold Medal for Astronomy.

Professor Frenk is one of the world’s foremost researchers behind the theory of Cold Dark Matter – a substance believed to make up 85 per cent of the mass of the Universe and thought to be one of the building blocks of galaxy formation.

Using supercomputer simulations of the Universe, Professor Frenk and his collaborators have pioneered many of the developments that have resulted in the Cold Dark Matter model becoming accepted as the standard concept for structure formation in the Universe.

Under his leadership the ICC has also become an internationally-renowned centre for research into the origin and evolution of the Universe, attracting leading researchers and the best students from around the world to Durham.

Previous recipients of the RAS Gold Medal include Charles Babbage, who originated the concept of the programmable computer, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble whose research implied that the Universe is expanding, and Albert Einstein, famous for developing the general theory of relativity.

Professor Frenk, who has co-authored more than 300 scientific papers and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2004, said: “It is, of course, a huge honour to be awarded a medal whose history goes back to 1824.

“To see my name listed alongside those of scientists whom I have admired all my life is a unique feeling.

“The gold medal is awarded ‘in recognition of a lifetime’s work’. Since I have spent most of my working life at Durham University, more than as a personal tribute, I see this as a recognition of the scientific contribution that my many collaborators at the Institute for Computational Cosmology, from PhD students to professors, and I have collectively made over the years.

“It is also recognition of the strong support I have received from my University and from research funding agencies both in the UK and Europe.”

In announcing Professor Frenk’s award, the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “Professor Frenk’s leadership skills have been instrumental to the success of the Durham University Institute for Cosmological Computation, which is now acknowledged as a world class centre for theoretical cosmology.

“Professor Frenk has raised the international profile of UK astronomy and assisted the careers of a generation of young researchers and I congratulate him on this well-deserved award.”

Professor David Southwood, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, congratulated the winners. He said: “For nearly two centuries the RAS has supported the work of astronomers and geophysicists in the UK and around the world. It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce the winners of our medals and awards for 2014, recognising the extraordinarily talented men and women who reach the highest levels of achievement in our field.”

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