Distinguished cosmologist Professor Hiranya Peiris (UCL Physics & Astronomy) has been awarded the 2018 Fred Hoyle Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics (IOP) for furthering our understanding of the origin and evolution of the cosmos.

The Institute of Physics annual awards recognise and reward excellence  in individuals and teams who have made a contribution to physics in the UK and Ireland. Commenting on the 2018 award winners, IOP President, Professor Dame Julia Higgins said: “It is a pleasure for me to recognise and celebrate today exceptional physics by exceptional individuals.”

“This is how IOP – representing the whole physics community – honours those who produce the very best work. And it is this work that directly contributes to our economy, our everyday lives and towards tackling some of the biggest challenges we face in society. I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to all our winners.”

Professor Peiris, who also shared the 2018 Breakthrough Prize, conducts world-leading research that has significantly shaped our understanding of the origin of cosmological structure seeded in the first moments of the Universe.

Professor Peiris worked on the NASA satellite known as Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which mapped the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – the light left over from the Big Bang – to allow scientists to work out the age of the Universe, its rate of expansion and its basic composition. She led the first paper testing theories of the early Universe with these seminal WMAP CMB observations, work that redefined the boundary between cosmology and high-energy physics.

Subsequently, Professor Peiris played key roles in the analysis of CMB data from ESA’s Planck satellite, and is a pioneer in the emerging field of astrostatistics, developing innovative statistical methods that now form part of the standard toolkit for cosmological data analysis.

In addition to her research achievements, the IOP identified her outreach work as outstanding, placing her amongst the very best advocates for cosmology.

At UCL, Professor Peiris is currently director of the Cosmoparticle Initiative, which is bringing together physicists from different research specialities to tackle fundamental questions at the interface of cosmology and particle physics.

Professor Peiris said “throughout my career I have been motivated by finding unexpected connections between different research areas. Right now we are facing deep questions in physics which cannot be answered by narrow approaches. I am excited to build connections enabling junior researchers to solve these problems using a diversity of techniques from different fields.”

Professor Peiris has served as Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society and currently spends half her time directing the Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmoparticle Physics in Stockholm. In 2016, she was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

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