Lifetime achievement award for UofG gravitational wave physicist

Professor Sheila Rowan has been honoured with the Philip Leverhulme Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding research in gravitational physics and unstinting contribution to the physics community.

Introduced by the Leverhulme Trust in 2001, the Philip Leverhulme Prizes are prestigious prizes for rising star academics who have achieved the highest distinction early in their career and show particularly strong future promise. The Leverhulme Trust Board has decided that now is the right time to recognise those who have achieved that promise. 

The Board has awarded the first Philip Leverhulme Lifetime Achievement Award to Professor Sheila Rowan CBE FRS FRSE FInstP, Chair of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow and director of its Institute for Gravitational Research.A picture of Prof Sheila Rowan receiving her Philip Leverhulme Lifetime Achievement Award

Professor Rowan won her original Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2005. Her research focuses on studies of optical materials for use in gravitational wave detectors. This award recognises two aspects of her stellar career: her landmark work on advancing the detection of gravitational waves and her exemplary scientific leadership and broader contributions to the scientific community and beyond.

She was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (FInstP) in 2006, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) in 2008, and a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2018. She was awarded the Fred Hoyle Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics in 2016 in recognition of her pioneering research on aspects of the technology of gravitational wave observatories. She was Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland from 2016 to 2021, and she is now President of the Institute of Physics.

Professor Rowan received her award at an event at Drapers’ Hall in London on Wednesday 8th March. Her colleague from the School of Physics & Astronomy, Professor Sir Jim Hough and University of Glasgow Clerk of Senate, Professor Martin Hendry, also attended the award ceremony.

She said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be named as the first recipient of the Philip Leverhulme Lifetime Achievement Award. I’m very proud to accept the award, 18 years after my initial recognition by the Leverhulme Trust.

“Much of the work that the award is for is the result of working closely with others. The historic first detection of gravitational waves in 2015, for example, was the result of decades of work by hundreds of people as part of an international collaboration. I’m very grateful to all my colleagues around the world who have helped support me across my career. Today, I’m pleased to be continuing that work as well as doing my part to support others at the University of Glasgow and the Institute of Physics.”

Niall FitzGerald, Chairman of the Trust Board, said: “The Trust clearly knew what it was doing when it awarded Professor Rowan her original prize in 2005. We strongly believe that recognition for this kind of community service is vital; many congratulations Sheila, for a well-deserved award.”

First published: 9 March 2023