Lancaster professor blazes a trail for women in astronomy


19 February 2019 13:47
Isobel Hook © credit: Jill Jennings
Professor Isobel Hook

Professor Isobel Hook of Lancaster University is one of the star female scientists highlighted on a series of posters from the University of Cambridge.

The posters on display at Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy – where Isobel obtained her PhD – focus on high achieving women in order to inspire the next generation.  

Professor Hook said: “My career in astronomy, starting with my PhD at the Institute of Astronomy, has taken me to wonderful places around the world. I particularly enjoy the combination of exploring the behaviour of the Universe with developing and using instruments at the cutting edge of new technology.”

Major research and achievements

As NATO Fellow at Berkeley from 1994, Professor Hook became part of the Supernova Cosmology Project Team led by Professor Saul Perlmutter. The goal of the project was to accurately measure the expansion rate of the Universe at different cosmic times by observing large numbers of Supernovae Type 1a (well-known as distance indicators) at high redshifts. The painstaking analysis by this team unexpectedly revealed that, rather than the expansion rate slowing down, the expansion of the Universe is actually speeding up. This acceleration is thought to be due to “Dark Energy”, the nature of which and its effect on the Universe is the focus of Isobel’s continuing research. 

Career in Astronomy

Professor Hook completed her undergraduate degree (1990) and PhD (1994) at the University of Cambridge. She was then awarded the position of NATO Fellow at the University of California Berkeley (1994-1996), European Southern Observatory Fellow (1996-98), then advanced to UK Gemini Support Astronomer (1998-2002). She became Head of the UK Gemini Support Group at the University of Oxford in 2002. Isobel was appointed to University Research Lecturer (2006) and then Professor of Astrophysics (2008) at the University of Oxford. In 2015 she was appointed to Professor of Astrophysics at Lancaster University. Isobel is an active member of forefront astronomical projects such as the European-Extremely Large Telescope and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

Honours and Awards

2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics awarded to the Supernova Cosmology Project Team

2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize awarded to the Supernova Cosmology Project Team

Participant in work that was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics, as a member of the Supernova Cosmology Project

Fellow of the Institute of Physics, UK (2012)

Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (2017)


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