Prof Karen Heywood honoured as Fellow of the Royal Society

Published by  Communications

On 7th May 2021

Karen Heywood at the Antarctic

UEA’s Prof Karen Heywood, Professor of Physical Oceanography in the School of Environmental Sciences, has been recognised for a lifetime of pioneering research into the physics of the ocean with one of the highest honours in academia.

Prof Heywood is one of a group of 60 scientists who have this week been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, joining the world’s most distinguished scientists from all areas of science, engineering and medicine.

Prof Heywood joined UEA in 1989 as a lecturer and has since held roles as a senior lecturer, reader and professor at the University. She is a Fellow of the Challenger Society for Marine Science (2000) and was awarded the Challenger Medal (2016) and was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2019.

She has served as President of the Ocean Sciences Division of the European Geosciences Union for the past four years, and last year the Heywood Glacier on the Antarctic Peninsula was named in her honour.

Her research has investigated physical processes in our oceans that underpin climate, such as ocean currents, eddies and turbulent mixing and she has revealed new insights into the interactions between the ocean, atmosphere and cryosphere (floating ice shelves and sea ice).

Prof Heywood has designed and led major field programmes at sea to observe and measure ocean characteristics, particularly in polar regions such as Antarctica and her pioneering use of autonomous vehicles, such as profiling ocean gliders, has been able to make critical measurements in challenging environments.

The Royal Society was founded in 1660 with the purpose of recognising, promoting, and supporting excellence in science – and among its historical members include Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Lise Meitner, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Dorothy Hodgkin.

Prof Heywood said: “It’s a huge honour to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. When I first started at UEA, Fred Vine FRS was a professor in ENV, always kind and supportive of me as a new lecturer. 

“I was in awe of him, as he was the first person to have demonstrated the existence of plate tectonics. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would follow in his eminent footsteps, and those of Peter Liss FRS who mentored and encouraged me.

“Thank you Fred and Peter – and to all my colleagues, collaborators, postdocs and students at UEA and beyond over the years – this honour is for you.”

Prof Kevin Hiscock, Head of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: “Karen is an international leader in the physical exploration of the oceans, especially in remote polar regions, and an inspiration to early career researchers. Karen's election as a Fellow of the Royal Society is a very well-deserved accolade and one that we warmly celebrate in the School of Environmental Sciences.”

The full list of newly elected Fellows can be found on the Royal Society website.

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