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Mountain climbing space physicist scales new heights to advance science

Dr Suzie Imber from the Department of Physics and Astronomy is preparing to embark on a comprehensive study of South America's Andes mountain range in the hope of answering questions about everything from the hardiness of bacteria in extreme environments to climate change and the Earth’s energy balance.

Suzie will attempt to scale 15 peaks over 50 days to gather a huge cache of data for research being carried out at several universities in the UK and in America.

Earlier this year, the prolific high-altitude mountaineer used a supercomputer to catalogue every Andean mountain over 5,000 metres in altitude. She then launched an expedition to the Andes to climb a selection of mountains discovered during the mapping process, completing several first-ascents and even stumbling across long-lost Incan ruins in the process.

Now, she plans to go back in November with her climbing partners Maximo Kausch and Pedro Hauck to face temperatures of minus thirty degrees Celsius, wind speeds of up to 100 mph and even minefields – all in the name of science.

Suzie said: “Among others, we have volunteered to collect data for Harvard Medical School to study resistance of bacteria, and we will be collecting snow and ice samples for a consortium of US universities interested in climate change. We are collaborating with the Earth Observation Science Group at the University of Leicester who are interested in comparing satellite measurement of land surface temperatures with measurements we will make from the ground, using instruments called radiometers.  Such studies are essential for monitoring Earth’s changing climate, and radiometer measurements have never been made at such altitude before.”

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