Professor Sally Faulkner and Dr Stephan Kraus

Exeter researchers recognised as rising stars of research by Leverhulme Awards

Two young scholars at the University of Exeter have been recognised by the award of the highly prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prizes.

Astrophysicist Dr Stefan Kraus and Modern Languages film historian Professor Sally Faulkner have been awarded prizes of £70,000 for their respective work on star and planet formation and Spanish cinema.

The Philip Leverhulme Prize is awarded to researchers usually under the age of 36 who have already had a significant international impact and whose future research career is exceptionally promising.

Dr Kraus, a Science and Technology Facilities Council Fellow, said: “The prize will allow me to initiate new projects that will help answer some of the fundamental questions about the planet formation process. I am very excited that this work and my research field is recognised with a Philip Leverhulme Prize.”

In his research, Dr Kraus studies the discs around young stars. Known as protoplanetary discs, they are thought to be the sites of on-going planet formation. However many fundamental questions about the physics of these discs still remain. For instance, it is believed that the strong stellar heating in the inner disc regions destroys dust grains, but further research is needed in order to determine how this affects the disc structure and the planet formation process.

Dr Kraus uses multiple separate telescopes that together provide very high image resolution. Known as interferometry, this technique enables him to study the processes in the inner regions of protoplanetary discs directly. The method allows the physical conditions of the inner parts of the discs to be determined and enables exploration of the impact of planet formation on the disc structure.

Professor Faulkner, winner of the only prize awarded in Hispanic Studies in 2013, has established a distinctive approach to Spanish cinema, with three monographs and a series of articles and chapters published in the UK, US and Spain. The Leverhulme assessors commented that “Sally Faulkner has written extensively, with originality and authority, on Spanish film, and has identified new and important grounds in modern Spanish culture, such as the ‘middlebrow’”.

Professor Faulkner’s latest book, A History of Spanish Film:Cinema and Society 1910-2010 is the first exploration of the relationship between Spanish film and social mobility. She currently leads a group of scholars who apply this new, class-based critical approach to other national cultures in a forthcoming edited volume Middlebrow Cinema.

Professor Faulkner said: “I'm delighted that my research has been recognised in this way. The two years of research leave that the prize will give me will allow me to further my work in a number of areas, including a collaborative project on middlebrow cinema, which re-assesses categories of 'art' and 'popular' cultures in world cinema; silent film, including the place of Spanish silent cinema in transnational circuits of exchange; and Spanish culture of the contested long transition to democracy.”

Philip Leverhulme Prize winners can choose to receive the £70,000 over a period of two or three years. Nominees must hold a post in a UK institution of higher education or research and should normally be under age 36 on the closing date. Exceptions are permitted where nominees have had a distinct career change or break. Nominations are accepted for work across 18 broad disciplines, with prizes in six offered each year. This year, the selected disciplines are: astronomy and astrophysics; economics; engineering; geography; modern languages and literature; and performing and visual arts.

Date: 29 November 2013

Read more University News