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Professor Gilles Chabrier

Exeter astrophysicist awarded prestigious medal

A University of Exeter professor who is one of the world’s leading experts in studying distant planets has been honoured by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) for his outstanding work.

Professor Gilles Chabrier has been awarded the Eddington Medal, which is only awarded every two years and recognises investigations of outstanding merit in astrophysics.

With an illustrious list of previous winners, including Stephen Hawking, the award is highly prestigious.

The medal caps an impressive few months for Professor Chabrier, after he was honoured with the top prize for physics in France – the Prix Jean Ricard – in December last year.

After hearing about the RAS award, Professor Chabrier said: “This is a great honour – looking at the list of previous winners makes me shiver. I’ve been doing research in theoretical physics and astrophysics for almost 30 years, so it’s great to get recognition for all that hard work and hopefully the medal proves at least part of it has been worthwhile.”

Professor Chabrier is one of the world's foremost experts on developing the theoretical physics which help understand distant planets.

His collaborative work with Professor Isabelle Baraffe, who is presently group leader of the university’s Astrophysics group, pioneered some of the mathematical tools which are now used all over the world to study the formation, structure, and evolution of these worlds.

Astrophysics, and particularly the study of distant planets, is a rapidly developing area of scientific research which is helping to shed light on some of the mysteries of space. Professor Chabrier says the ‘holy grail’ of study in this area is the potential to find life on other planets.

He said: “This is a really exciting area to be involved with. It is developing at a startling pace and I’m very happy to be a part of it.

“At Exeter we’re one of the leading research groups in looking at star and planet formation and finding planets, so it’s great to get an award which recognises some of the work done here.”

Professor Chabrier is a key member of the university’s Astrophysics team. The study of extrasolar planets is a key part of the university’s Science Strategy, which aims to bring together academic staff from multiple disciplines to carry out cutting-edge research.

Date: 28 January 2011

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