Lancaster Scientist lauded for ‘exceptional contribution’ to Earth sciences


Professor Barbara Maher
Professor Barbara Maher

A Lancaster University researcher whose research traces magnetic particles in materials as diverse as lake sediments, soils, air pollution and human tissues has been awarded a prestigious international prize.

Professor Barbara Maher of the Lancaster Environment Centre has been made a 2020 Fellow by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Her research has ranged from using expert knowledge of Environmental Magnetism to investigate the distant past – for example using deep sea sediment to identify environmental and climatic changes over the last 2 million years – to discovering the impacts of particulate air pollution on human brains and hearts.

Professor Maher’s recent work includes magnetic monitoring and sourcing of particulate pollutants.  She led the team that recently discovered the abundant presence of externally-derived, magnetite pollution particles in the human brain, identifying for the first time a possible causal role for these toxic particles in human neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease

Supporting 130,000 people – from enthusiasts to experts - around the globe, the AGU aims to advance understanding of Earth and space sciences. And since 1962 the AGU Union Fellows Committee has selected less than 0.1% of members as new Fellows. Professor Maher now joins a prestigious group of individuals who have made ‘exceptional contributions in the Earth and space sciences’.

In the award letter AGU President Professor Robin Bell said: “Thanks to your dedication and contribution to our field, you have advanced geoscience through discovery and innovation. It is your curiosity and your relentless pursuit for the answers to those questions of why and how that have led to your election as a Union Fellow. On behalf of AGU and the Union Fellows committee, we welcome you to our community and we all congratulate you on your well-deserved honor.”

Professor Maher said: “I’m delighted and honored to receive this recognition of my research and the impact it’s having. It’s also a great reflection on all the hard work put in by all of us in LEC’s Centre for Environmental Magnetism and Palaeomagnetism.”

Professor Phil Barker, Director of the Lancaster Environment Centre, said: “A richly deserved honour for Professor Maher’s exceptional contribution to the Earth Sciences. Few have embraced a fundamental property such as magnetism and applied it with such effect and creativity to better our understanding of Earth and our place on the planet.”

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