UEA marine science professor awarded OBE in Queen’s birthday honours list

Published by  Communications

On 2nd Jun 2022

Karen Heywood on a boat in the Antarctic

Prof Karen Heywood, Professor of Physical Oceanography in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA), has been recognised for a lifetime of pioneering research and teaching in oceanography with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s birthday honours.

Prof Heywood has been awarded her OBE for Services to Oceanography, following a career dedicated to researching physical processes in the ocean and training the next generation of marine scientists.

Prof Heywood joined UEA as a lecturer in 1989 when oceanography was a little-known science and has gone on to help raise the global profile of marine science. She was made professor in 2005 and was the first female professor in physical oceanography in the UK. Her research aims to better understand the physics of the ocean and its role in climate. She has made observations of processes in all of the world’s oceans, and also used computer models to understand these processes.

Prof Heywood’s current research uses underwater robotic gliders to make measurements of processes in the Antarctic, particularly in the regions beneath and around floating ice shelves and glaciers. This measures the impact of global temperature rises and the effect on ice thinning and therefore sea level rise around the world.

She has led six oceanographic research field campaigns to Antarctica and is a lead Principal Investigator on the TARSAN project, a ship-based project studying how atmospheric and oceanic processes are influencing the behaviour of the Thwaites and Dotson Ice Shelves in Antarctica, where she and her team measure ocean currents and how they lead to loss of Antarctic ice.

Among her many accolades, Prof Heywood has a glacier named after her, the Heywood Glacier on the Antarctic Peninsula, which is around 11km long and 3km wide.

She has also previously been awarded the prestigious Challenger Medal from the Challenger Society, the foremost award for marine scientists in the UK, and is a fellow of the Royal Society and the American Geophysical Union. 

Prof Heywood said: “I’m delighted to receive this honour which was a big surprise. Ocean science has always been close to my heart and I’d like to think I’ve done something to help the international ocean science community and to raise the profile of marine science.

“I feel very lucky to have experienced the rise of ocean science and the opportunities for international and important research we have now. My proudest legacy is the network of young scientists I have had the pleasure of mentoring; this is for them.”

Prof Kevin Hiscock, Head of UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “The recognition of Karen in the Queen’s Birthday Honours is richly deserved. Not only has she made highly significant contributions to oceanography during her career, she has been a great role model and mentor for the next generation of marine scientists. We are all very proud of Karen’s achievements and delighted to hear of the award of the OBE to her.”

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