Hayley Allison, who works in Section 2.7 "Space Physics and Space Weather" at the German Research Centre for Geosciences, has been awarded the prestigious "Leopoldina Prize for Young Scientists".
Hayley Allison studied physics and astrophysics at the University of Leicester (UK). She received her doctorate in applied mathematics at the University of Cambridge. The astrophysicist focusses her research on the Van Allen Belt, the Earth's radiation belt. It is composed of highly energetic positively and negatively charged particles which become trapped in the Earth's magnetic field. Together with Yuri Shprits, Allison discovered that electrons in the Van Allen belt can be accelerated to ultra-relativistic energies, i.e. almost to the speed of light. She studied the acceleration mechanisms and found out under which conditions the phenomenon occurs. According to her results, plasma waves that occur during solar storms play a decisive role while at the same time the background plasma must be of low density. Allison's work has practical significance, as such fast and heavy electrons can endanger satellites. The energetic particles cannot be shielded.
The Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences awards this prize every two years to two outstanding researchers whose doctorates were completed no more than five years ago. Hayley Allison has already co-published 13 scientific papers during her time in Potsdam. The prize, which has now been awarded, is funded by Akademie Freundeskreis e.V. and is currently endowed with 5,000 euros.