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The University of Southampton

Major prize for Southampton scientist

Published: 17 November 2008

Climate expert Heiko Pälike has been awarded a 2008 Philip Leverhulme Prize. These prestigious prizes are awarded annually to the "best young scientists in the UK" and carry a value of £70,000 that the prize holder can use for any purpose in support of their research activity.

Dr Pälike is a member of the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science, based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. His main research explores the relationship between climate and variations of the Earth's orbit, on timescales from thousands to millions of years. Orbital variations are regular, and traces of these 'astronomical metronomes' can be found by measuring the chemical and physical properties of sediment cores taken during ocean drilling.

Specifically, Dr Pälike uses stable (ie non-radioactive) isotope measurements to investigate the climate-driven evolution of the world's oceans, with the aim of calibrating the 'Geological Time Scale' with astronomically driven climate cycles ('Milankovitch' cycles). Dr Pälike's ultimate aim is to help produce a precise timescale for the entire Cenozoic, which covers the period from 65.5 million years ago until the present.

Dr Pälike also uses the sediment record of past climate changes to refine astronomical models, and previously he investigated the role of climate change on human evolution. He has published many high-impact scientific papers, and was recently a co-author on a paper in the scientific journal Nature modelling the glaciation of the Earth's polar regions.

Philip Leverhulme Prizes are awarded to "outstanding scholars (normally under the age of 36) who have made a substantial and recognised contribution to their particular field of study, recognised at an international level, and whose future contributions are held to be of correspondingly high promise". Approximately 25 Prizes are available each year. The Prizes commemorate the contribution to the work of the Trust made by Philip Leverhulme, the Third Viscount Leverhulme and grandson of the Founder of the Trust.

Professor Sir Richard Brook, the Director of The Leverhulme Trust, said: "The standard of the nominated candidates was encouragingly high, and the eventual recipients of Prizes were judged by the panel to be truly outstanding in their fields, with records of proven achievement, as well as telling promise for the future."

Professor Andrew Roberts, Head of the School of Ocean and Earth Science, himself a previous winner of a Philip Leverhulme Prize (2001), said: "At the National Oceanography Centre, we are committed to attracting and supporting the best and brightest young scientists in the world so that they can develop careers as world leaders in their respective fields. This puts our research on the map at the highest levels and provides an outstanding education for our students who benefit from being taught by some of the finest people in science. Dr Pälike is one of the smartest people I know and is a highly deserving winner of the Philip Leverhulme Prize."

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