Professor Jayne Birkby

Professor Jayne Birkby awarded Philip Leverhulme prize

Exoplanets and planetary physics

Professor Jayne Birkby from the Department of Physics at Oxford is one of five outstanding physicists to be recognised by the 2021 Philip Leverhulme Prize.

The Leverhulme Trust’s Philip Leverhulme Prize awards £3 million to a total of 30 outstanding researchers across the UK with five winners in each of the following disciplines: physics, classics, Earth sciences, politics and international relations, psychology, and visual and performing arts. The prizes recognise and celebrate the achievement of exceptional researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future careers are exceptionally promising.

Associate Professor of Exoplanetary Science, Professor Birkby, will use her Leverhulme Prize funding to explore the conditions playing out on the surfaces of rocky planets orbiting other stars, using the world’s largest telescopes. Like Earth, these rocky exoplanets have intricate relationships between their atmospheres and surfaces, such as the water and carbon cycles, and were formed by the gases they spewed out of their volcanic lava lakes at young ages. Professor Birkby will study extreme molten lava exoplanets to help understand the origins and enormous diversity of rocky planets in our galaxy.

She comments: ‘I am thrilled and honoured to have received the Leverhulme Prize in physics. It will enable me to lead an exciting new observational study of these enigmatic and extreme rocky worlds. It will also help me prepare for studies of the nearest, potentially habitable, rocky worlds with the upcoming Extremely Large Telescopes, using instruments like HARMONI that we are building right here in Oxford.’

Find out more about the 2021 Philip Leverhulme Prize winners.