Frances Hoggan Medal 2020

Professor Haley Gomez MBE FLSW, Professor of Astrophysics in the School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University, has won the Learned Society of Wales’ Frances Hoggan Medal 2020, awarded to celebrate outstanding research by women in STEMM subjects.

Professor Gomez received her MBE in 2018 ‘for services to astrophysics and astronomy and, in particular, for inspiring the next generation of physicists and astronomers by communicating her research to a wide audience’.

This has included giving numerous talks, appearing widely in the media and working with choreographer Jack Philp to create LUMEN, which was inspired by Professor Gomez’s work on cosmic dust and was performed at the Wales Millennium Centre. In addition, her outreach work has included training over 200 teachers in Wales, partly in an attempt to counteract gender bias in relation to STEMM subjects.

Professor Gomez’s research has focused on the use of far-infrared light to reveal dust emission in explosions of stars and in galaxies. Her team and collaborators have helped demonstrate that dust is actually formed in the explosion of stars, that the Universe is getting “cleaner” and that the building blocks of rocky planets like Earth form in one particular kind of stellar explosion.

On receiving the medal, Professor Gomez said:

“I am really honoured to have been nominated for this award let alone to win it.  I feel very lucky to have received  wonderful education in Wales, and for having so much support from my partner and family. I’m especially proud to be awarded the Frances Hoggan medal given her trailblazing work in a society where women were rarely allowed to practice science.

“As a scientist and now as a parent of boy-girl twins, it’s important for me that society in general can engage with positive scientific role models and to try and dispel our underlying biases on what a scientist should `look like’.  

“My research is based on understanding the origins of space dust, the raw materials for rocky planets like the Earth and even life itself.”