£1.7m awards announced for research spanning space and smoking

Protoplanetary disc around HL Tauri as revealed by ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) [image: ESA]

Two academics have received prestigious fellowships, announced today, to pursue research in planet formation and the effects of tobacco over time.

Dr Giovanni Rosotti, currently at Leiden University in the Netherlands, has been awarded an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship of £512,000 by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). And Dr Sarah Inskip, currently at Cambridge, has received a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship of £1.2 million.

Dr Rosotti’s research is in the field of exoplanet science which, in the last 20 years, has grown from science fiction to one of the most important areas of astrophysics. Yet we still do not know how planets form, because all the planets so far discovered are around adult stars. To solve this problem, he will study planet ‘nurseries’ – the discs of matter which form around stars and eventually coalesce into planets.

Thanks to new, cutting-edge equipment, astronomers now study these discs in up-close detail and are discovering that they host young, baby planets.

“This is an amazing opportunity to put to the test planet formation theories,” said Dr Rosotti, “I will use sophisticated computer codes to weigh these planets and study which of our planet formation theories can explain their existence.”

Dr Inskip’s research is more terrestrial; a four-year interdisciplinary project exploring the impact of tobacco on health in Post-Medieval Western Europe and connecting those trends to ones seen today.

By studying human skeletal remains from pre- and post-tobacco populations, she will identify changes in disease patterns and investigate how they relate to broader social and economic priorities of the time.

The project will be the first to look at the long-term consequence of tobacco use in a population. The findings should prove useful in understanding modern health dilemmas.

Dr Inskip said: “This is a complex issue that could only be resolved with an innovative interdisciplinary approach.

“There is a huge opportunity here to improve the way in which researchers of past populations interact with other disciplines and to produce impactful and exciting research that crosses disciplinary boundaries.”