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Professor Bell Burnell Takes SES on a Tour of the Universe

Dame Professor Jocelyn Bell BurnellProfessor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, gave the first Foundation Lecture of the year at Stamford High School on Thursday 5th February. In an address to a packed out audience, she spoke about the creation of the universe, and how the chemicals we rely on to survive, came into being.

Professor Bell Burnell is Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, Fellow of Mansfield College and has served as President of both the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics.

A keen advocate of raising the profile of women in science, she spent the afternoon in the Ancaster Studio with SHS physicists, talking about Pluto and describing how and why it was reclassified as a Dwarf Planet. Having become interested in astronomy as a teenager herself, she is especially keen to inspire young women to follow in her footsteps. She worked on the Nobel Prize winning discovery of pulsars as a postgraduate student in Cambridge and last year was the first woman appointed President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Her lecture, 'We Are Made of Star Stuff', offered a fascinating insight into the origins of the universe and human life. Guiding the audience from the Big Bang to the present, via the lifecycle of stars, Supernovas and planets.

Professor Bell Burnell explained that “If it wasn’t for stars we wouldn’t be here. We are, in a very intimate and ultimate way, children of the stars. To such a huge extent, you could actually say: ‘We are Stars’.” 

Foundation Director, Rachael Petrie said “Many thanks to Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell for making our heads spin, and to Stamford High School’s Mr Harman, whose hard work and dedication to nurturing a passion for physics at SHS made the lecture possible.”