University of Leicester eBulletin

End of an Era in Physics and Astronomy

October 2002

7 members of the academic staff of Physics and Astronomy Department who have retired/changed roles

Two hundred and fifteen years of service to the University of Leicester were marked on Wednesday, September 18, 2002 at 4.30 pm, when the Department of Physics and Astronomy celebrated the achievements of seven members of its academic staff who were either retiring or changing roles. Over the years this group has made a tremendous contribution to the prestige of the Department in research and teaching, both nationally and internationally.

The seven staff are:
Professor Ken Pounds (42 years service), Professor of Space Physics, who stands down as Head of Department but will be staying on in the Department in a research capacity. Professor John Beeby (30 years service), Professor of Theoretical Physics; Professor Ted Davis (22 years service), Professor of Experimental Physics; Professor David Llewellyn-Jones (9 years service), Professor of Earth Observation Science; Dr Brin Cooke (40 years service), Senior Lecturer; Dr Ted Thomas (35 years service), Lecturer; Dr Emyr Evans (37 years service), Sub-Dean, Faculty of Science.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy carries out wide ranging research, of international renown, in the areas of Condensed Matter Physics, Radio and Space Plasma Physics, X-ray and Observational Astronomy and Theoretical Astrophysics. In addition the Department includes the University Space Research Centre, opened in 1998, which develops instrumentation for space missions in collaboration with ESA, NASA and other national and international partners. It also hosts national centres for supercomputing, radar sounding and high-energy astrophysics data. External research grant and contract income is maintained at ~£6M a year. A top (Grade 5) research rating was achieved in the last three HEFCE assessments (1992,1996,2002).

The Department teaches Physics in an innovative degree scheme, which offers students considerable flexibility and choice. BSc and MPhys honours degrees are available in Physics, Physics with Astrophysics and Physics with Space Science and Technology, with plans to add two new courses in Experimental Physics and Physics with e-Science from September 2003. The teaching in Department was rated excellent in the most recent Teaching Quality Assessment (1999).

Building on the strong research and teaching base in Astrophysics and Space Science, staff in the Department were instrumental in the establishment of the highly successful £52 million National Space Centre in Leicester.

Speaking of the Department's achievements over the years, Professor Ken Pounds said:

"As the most fundamental of the sciences it is essential for any leading university
to teach and research in Physics. Combining with Astronomy, as we did in 1986, increased
the breadth of our work and strengthened our student base. Leicester now has one of the top 10 Departments of Physics in the UK, by any measure, and can look forward to a rewarding and successful future".

Incoming Head of Department, Professor Bob Warwick commented:

"For seven colleagues to retire, all at once, is an unprecedented event. Their combined contribution to the work of the Department and the University over the last four decades has been immense. The current strength of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in both research and teaching is in many ways a testimony to their past endeavours. I know that several of them are planning to continue with their research, after their official retirement, to the benefit of the Department. I wish all of them the very best for the future."

Contributions to research and teaching in the Department

Professor Ken Pounds, Professor of Space Physics and Head of Department

Ken Pounds moved directly from being a research student at UCL to Assistant Lecturer in 1960, as a founder member of the new Space Research Group. He became first Director of the X-ray Astronomy group in 1974 and was appointed as Head of Physics in 1986, a position he has
held (apart from 1994-8) until now. An early decision was to merge with Astronomy, in 1987, to create the present joint Department. From 1994-8 he was seconded as Chief Executive of PPARC, following the restructuring of the Research Councils.

Professor John Beeby, Professor of Theoretical Physics

John Beeby was appointed to the Chair of Theoretical Physics in 1972. His research in Condensed Matter Physics has focussed on Surfaces and Disordered Systems. He led the major national programme on Low Dimensional Structures and Devices for the Science and Engineering Research Council and for four years was Chairman of the Condensed Matter and Materials Division of the Institute of Physics and a member of the Institute’s Council. He is currently a member of the Council of the European Physical Society.

John’s roles in the Department and University included Head of Department of Physics from 1976 to 1982, Dean/Pro-Dean of Science from 1990 to 1997 and Pro-Vice-Chancellor from 1997 to 2001.


Dr Brin Cooke, Senior Lecturer, X-Ray and Observational Astronomy Group

Brin Cooke was appointed to Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Physics in 1962. He was later promoted to Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Laboratories. He flew Skylark rocket payloads from Woomera in the pioneering days of X-ray Astronomy to map the southern X-ray sky and had a major role in the Leicester instruments on the Ariel V satellite. His Royal Society Radcliffe Fellowship in Astrophysics was spent at MIT working on HEAO high-energy data. His later research involved the identification of X-ray sources by making optical, infrared and radio observations.

Professor Ted Davis, Professor of Experimental Physics

Ted Davis served as Head of the Department of Physics from 1982 to 1985 and as Dean of Science from 1985 to 1988. He has been Senior Postgraduate Tutor in the Department for the past 8 years and for 18 years was Head of the Condensed Matter Physics Group.

While at Leicester Ted has authored, or co-authored, over 100 publications and written several books, including “J J Thomson: The Discoverer of the Electron”. For the past 10 years he has undertaken work at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory using muons implanted into semiconductors - research he intends to continue. He will also maintain his position as Chief Editor of Philosophical Magazine, a 200-year old physics journal. In 2001 he was made an Honorary citizen of Nice.

Dr Emyr Evans, Associate Dean of Combined Science 

Emyr Evans was appointed to a Lectureship in the Department of Physics in 1966 and was initially associated with the Ionospheric Physics research group led by Professor Tudor Jones.

The early 1980s saw a move from research to administration when he became both Departmental Administrator and Senior Admissions Tutor, posts that he held until his early retirement in 1998. In these roles he worked alongside three Heads of Department (one of them twice) and his admissions responsibilities included the introduction of a number of new Physics degrees, which led to a significant boost in student intake.

He also acted as Associate Dean for the Combined Science degree (1988-91) and as Sub-Dean of the Faculty of Science (1991-1998) and then held both posts during his Associate Contract (1998-2002)

Professor David Llewellyn-Jones, Professor of Earth Observation Science

David Llewellyn-Jones was appointed to a new chair of Earth Observation Science in 1993, which established a programme of inter-disciplinary research utilising data obtained from space to study the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. He was Principal Investigator on the ATSR instrument flown on the ESA satellites ERS1 and 2. David is also the PI of the AATSR instrument on board ENVISAT, which was successfully launched in March of this year.

Over the next two years he will continue his involvement with the University as a University Fellow.

Dr Ted Thomas, Lecturer in Physics

Ted Thomas was appointed to Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Physics in 1967.

After a period doing research in theoretical surface physics he switched to cosmology and worked on problems associated with the Microwave Background. A strong interest in teaching led to a co-authored textbook on “Maxwell’s Equations”. Since 1991 he has taught the cosmology option and co-authored a textbook entitled “Cosmology for Final Year Students” which was published in 2001. He has worked extensively on the development of new teaching material for the Department and two years ago some of this material was published as a book of physics problems.

Note to editors: Further information is available from Professor Bob Warwick, Professor of X-ray Astronomy and Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, telephone 0116 252 3517, email rsw@star.le.ac.uk

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