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Durham University

Faculty of Science

The Rochester Prize

The Rochester Prize is awarded annually by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Science) to the top performing first year Science undergraduate student. The name of the award honours Professor George Rochester (1908-2001), a former head of the Department of Physics, whose family attends the presentation of the award each year.

Professor Rochester became one of the founding figures of modern particle physics when, in the 1940s, he discovered the existence of nuclear matter heavier than the previously known particles such as protons and neutrons. His discovery earned him the FRS - Fellowship of the Royal Society, the top accolade in UK science, in 1958.

George Rochester was born on Tyneside, the son of a blacksmith, on 4 February, 1908. He attended Wallsend Grammar School and between 1926 and 1929 he was the Earl Grey Memorial Scholar at Armstrong College, Newcastle (then part of Durham University), where he gained BSc, MSc and PhD degrees. After a period as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, he went to Manchester University where he progressed from Assistant Lecturer to a Readership in 1953. He returned to Durham as Professor of Physics and Chair of the Department in 1955. He served as one of two Pro-Vice-Chancellors of the University from 1967 to 1970. He died in December 2001.

It was the foresight and wisdom of George Rochester that laid the foundation for Durham's Physics Department now being one of the premier research and teaching institutions in the country , recognised for the international quality of its work.

As Head of Department George Rochester built up Physics not only through academic appointments, but almost literally, taking a personal hand in the detailed design and interior structure of the main departmental building. On the 50th anniversary of his great discovery, it was named the Rochester Building, by the University's last Chancellor, the late Sir Peter Ustinov.

Throughout his 28 years of retirement Professor Rochester took a keen interest in the development of the University and of Physics in particular. In addition to the Rochester Prize, the University holds an annual Rochester Lecture, in which some of the world's most distinguished scientists have presented the latest developments in Physics.



Claire Fairbairn

Mathematical Sciences


Ruth Wilbourne

Mathematical Sciences


David Smithson

Computer Science


Pichet Vanichchapongjaroen

Natural Sciences (Mathematics / Physics)


Matthew Payne



Adam Pacey & Steven Charlton

Earth Sciences (Geoscience) & Mathematical Sciences


Carline Wood

School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences


Andrew Frawley



Rebekka Welch

Psychology (Applied)


Alexander James Beatty & Zachary Killingback

School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences & Earth Sciences (Geoscience)


James Marschalek

Earth Sciences (Geoscience)


Emma Williams



Fleur Riley

Psychology (Applied)


Matthew Toynbee

Mathematical Sciences