Student physicist wins prestigious National science award.

Press/Media: Relating to Research

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The young astrophysicist has taken the bronze medal for their research excellence in a prestigious national competition, STEM for BRITAIN 2022.
The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs STEM for Britain to showcase the best of UK scientific research being carried out by early career researchers and is in the only national competition of its kind. In the finals, the shortlisted candidates presented their research in the British Parliament, to the politicians and a panel of expert judges, on Monday 7 March.
 
Held in the House of Commons, STEM for Britain involves some 200 or so early career scientists who were judged against other shortlisted physicists from across Britain in a competition that also includes categories for researchers who are chemists, biologists, engineers and mathematicians.
 
There are only three winners in the category, making Ancy Anna’s Bronze medal a fantastic achievement. STEM for Britain enables Members of Parliament to learn firsthand about some of the excellent, ground-breaking research being carried out by young researchers here in the UK.

PhD student Ancy Anna presented her research on how she is helping astronomers to determine whether they are detecting an exoplanet or the activity of a star. This could improve the ability to find ‘Earth-twins’ – planets with a mass that is very close to the Earth’s – around stars other than our Sun.
 
An exoplanet is a planet orbiting another star, so is beyond our Solar System. Planets create very little light compared to their parent star. Our star is our Sun, which is about a billion times as bright as the reflected light from any of the planets orbiting it. It can therefore be very difficult to visualise smaller planets, so they are detected in other ways.  
 
Stars use their gravity to keep the planets in orbit, which in turn exerts a gravitational pull back, which makes the star wobble. One way of detecting planets, therefore, is by measuring the change in frequency of the light waves from the star as it wobbles due to the planet’s gravitational pull. The problem is that the star’s visible surface is also covered in millions of blobs of gas that is rising and falling at high speeds, and it is easy to mistake the effects of this activity for a planet signal.
 
Telling the difference between signs of the presence of a planet or activity on the surface of a star is even more challenging for the low-mass Earth-like exoplanets, so Ancy Anna and her colleagues have developed a way of stripping the confusing signals away, enabling precise detection and characterisation of Earth-mass planets around bright stars. 
 
Ancy Anna said: “I am interested in discovering Earth-like exoplanets, in a vision to help humanity to answer the thought-provoking question – ‘Are we alone in the Universe?’
 
“I believe this science should be accessible to everyone, regardless of age, colour, gender, background and place of origin.
 
“I saw STEM for Britain to be an unparalleled opportunity to display my research and show that science is truly approachable.

Period7 Mar 2022 → 18 Mar 2022

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