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Durham University

Research & business

Recognition for rising stars of research

(20 September 2019)

Two pioneering researchers - one who is improving telescope images of space and the other studying the environmentally damaging practice of sand mining - have received national recognition for their work.

Dr James Osborn and Dr Laura Schoenberger have been appointed as Future Leader Fellows by the Government-funded research organisation, UK Research and Innovation.

The fellowships recognises innovative researchers providing them with funding to tackle challenges facing the world today.

Improving ground-based telescopes

Based in our Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, James explores different ways to unlock the full potential of ground-based telescopes for astronomy and satellite communications.

Currently, images from ground-based telescopes are limited by Earth’s turbulent atmosphere – the same turbulence that makes stars appear to twinkle. James will use his fellowship to build a 3D model of atmospheric turbulence so he can understand all of its characteristics and the problems it causes.

This will lead to the development of new correction mechanisms resulting in ground-based telescopes which are as good, if not better, than space telescopes.

These new techniques can also be used to improve satellite communications by increasing the amount of data retrieved from space science satellites.

Follow the sand

Laura, who joins our Geography Department in February 2020, researches sand mining in the Asia Pacific – an industry causing environmental damage worldwide.

We are surrounded by sand - it is used to make glass, concrete, asphalt, and computer chips - yet its trade is invisible in environmental laws and policy.

Laura’s research will make sand mining and its associated issues visible. Her research 'follows the sand', starting with extraction points in the Asia Pacific that supply the world's largest importer of sand, Singapore.

Laura will use her fellowship to create an online database and mapping tool to track where sand is being mined, both legally and illegally, and follow its journey from extraction point to the consumer.

Find out more