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Lurgan scientist Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell given Distinguished Service Award by President Michael D Higgins

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell was last night given a Distinguished Service Award by President Michael D Higgins

A CO Armagh scientist was last night given a Distinguished Service Award by President Michael D Higgins.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who was born in Lurgan, made one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the twentieth century when she identified radio pulsars in 1967.

The discovery was recognised by the award of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics, though Professor Bell Burnell was not one of the recipients of the prize.

While examining miles of data from a new radio telescope she had helped to build, she spotted a faint and unusual signal that would prove to be repeating pulses of radio waves.

"It occupied about one part in 100,000 of the three miles of chart data that I had," Professor Bell Burnell said in a recent interview.

"I noticed it because I was being really careful, really thorough, because of impostor syndrome."

The world renowned astrophysicist, who did not attend yesterday's ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin, was last year awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

She donated the whole of the £2.3 million prize money to help female, minority, and refugee students become physics researchers.

During her long career, Professor Bell Burnell has worked in many branches of astronomy and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003, a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and was President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 2002 to 2004.

She was President of the Institute of Physics from 2008 to 2011 and is Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and in February 2018 was appointed Chancellor of the University of Dundee.

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