A pioneering planet hunter has been appointed to the Watson and Marilyn Alberts chair in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley. Geoff Marcy, who is currently professor of astronomy at Berkeley, said it was "an extremely exciting time" to be working in the field. "The discovery of extrasolar planets has spawned the search for Earth-like, habitable worlds and for life in the Universe," he said. "Our recent discoveries will inevitably lead us to more related work as we find increasing numbers of potentially habitable planets." Professor Marcy studied for his undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles and went on to the University of California, Santa Cruz to study for his doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics. He then took up a Carnegie fellowship at the Carnegie Institution of Washington before moving to San Francisco State University, where he was professor of physics and astronomy and subsequently distinguished university professor. He joined Berkeley in 1999. Professor Marcy, who is co-investigator on Nasa's Kepler team, said he "couldn't be more pleased" with his appointment. "As we continue to search for habitable planets, we will also seek methods to detect signals from extraterrestrial intelligence," he said. "This appointment will assist me in developing that research and allow me to support and involve dynamic emerging astronomers, who will continue this work long into the future."
University of Aberdeen
Andrew Hurst, professor of production geoscience at the University of Aberdeen, has received the Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists for his "distinguished and outstanding contributions" to the field. Professor Hurst received his undergraduate degree from Aberdeen and his PhD from the University of Reading. He went on to work in industry, where he stayed for 12 years before moving to his current role in 1992. He is the founding editor of the journal Petroleum Geoscience and served on the AAPG's publication committee from 2005 to 2008. As well as his scholarly work in the field of petroleum geology, Professor Hurst is the founder and chairman of Fabric of the Land, an annual exhibition that aims to bridge the gap between science and art. He said that he was delighted to be recognised for his work, but stressed that he saw his achievements as a team effort. "To receive the Grover E. Murray Award is a huge and surprising honour for one who has a substantial debt to many ever-supportive and patient academic colleagues," he said. "Any award is flattering, and to receive this award for doing a job I love is great. If one cannot inspire students about a science as wonderful as geology, what a failure that would be."
The Mexican government has bestowed its highest honour for foreign citizens - the Order of the Aztec Eagle - on Julio Ortega, professor of Hispanic studies at Brown University and a noted playwright, poet and novelist. Professor Ortega received a master's degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and a doctorate at the National University of Santa before leaving to work in the US, first at the University of Texas at Austin, then at Brandeis University. He joined Brown in 1989. There he helped to set up the Transatlantic Project, which looks at the history of cultural exchange between Europe and the New World. Professor Ortega described his award as a "gift representing [my] affection and hope for Mexico". He said: "Mexican culture has been a passion for me. I have dedicated a good part of my work to understanding the many faces belonging to historical, mythical and so-called post-apocalyptic times."
Scottish Agricultural College
The new chief executive and principal of the Scottish Agricultural College has pledged that the institution will play an "increasingly significant role" in tackling global challenges. Bob Webb, currently professor of animal science and pro vice-chancellor for research at the University of Nottingham, listed food security and quality, environmental issues and economic sustainability of farming as matters he felt the institution could help to address. He said: "These global challenges, however, also present exciting opportunities because of the central importance of agriculture, both nationally and internationally...I look forward to working with colleagues to make both Scottish and UK agriculture more sustainable, while addressing environmental impact." Professor Webb worked for a number of years as principal research scientist at the Roslin Institute. He has also been a senior scientist in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Oxford, a research fellow at the University of Michigan and is an honorary fellow of the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. He has also been dean of Nottingham's Faculty of Science and head of its School of Biosciences.
The University of Salford has appointed Jim Yip pro vice-chancellor for research and innovation and dean of the College of Science and Technology. Professor Yip is currently dean of the School of Computing and Engineering at the University of Huddersfield.
Mike Bode, director of the Astrophysics Research Institute at Liverpool John Moores University, is the new chair of the Advisory Panel for Science in Society at the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Dermot Kelleher has been named principal of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London. He is currently vice-provost for medical affairs and head of the School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin.
Aberystwyth University has named Rachel Tod director of its International Office. Ms Tod was previously the institution's postgraduate marketing and recruitment officer.
Elizabeth Hurren has been appointed reader in the medical humanities in the School of Historical Studies at the University of Leicester. Dr Hurren was previously reader in the history of medicine at Oxford Brookes University.
The University of Nottingham has named Michael Carr director of business engagement and innovation services. He joins from the East Midlands Development Agency.
Laura Polverari, senior research fellow in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Strathclyde, has won the European Union Committee of the Regions Doctoral Thesis Competition 2011.
Rajiv Sarin has joined the department of economics at the University of Birmingham, taking up a chair in economic theory. Professor Sarin was previously Alfred F. Chalk professor of economics at Texas A&M University.