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Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, renowned astrophysicist was today awarded an honorary doctorate by Dublin City University. Pictured with Tessa Ronan (blonde) and Cleo Harvey (brunette) who both graduated from DCU today with a first class honours in Applied Physics.

DCU honours top female astrophysicist

Dublin City University has today paid tribute to Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the Northern Ireland-born astrophysicist, in recognition of her life’s work in the field of astronomy and astrophysics, her commitment to science communication and her advocacy for women in the field of science.

Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU highlighted the importance of Dame Jocelyn’s role in addressing the issue of poor representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths careers,

“One of the biggest issues in this area is the relatively poor take up of STEM degrees and STEM careers by young women. Lower than 15% in many degree programmes – lower than 25% across all STEM careers in Ireland.  Apart from equity issues, this is a horrendous waste of talent.  Dame Jocelyn has been to the fore publicly and internationally in highlighting, in acting willingly as a role model and, most of all, pursuing relentlessly the advancement of Women in Science.”

Accepting an honorary doctorate from the university, Dame Jocelyn spoke of her pride in receiving this accolade and encouraged the graduating students to believe in themselves and to guard against imposter syndrome,

“You have a right to be here, you will have a right to be here wherever you go next and I hope it goes well for you.”

Professor Bell Burnell inadvertently discovered pulsars as a graduate student in radio astronomy in Cambridge, opening up a new branch of astrophysics - work recognised by the award of a Nobel Prize to her supervisor.

She has subsequently worked in many roles in many branches of astronomy, working part-time while raising a family.  She is now a Visiting Professor in Oxford, a Pro-Chancellor of Trinity College Dublin and the first female President of the royal Society of Edinburgh - Scotland’s Academy.

Much in demand as a speaker and broadcaster, in her spare time she gardens, listens to choral music and is active in the Quakers.  She has co-edited an anthology of poetry with an astronomical theme - Dark Matter:  Poems of Space.

Professor Colette McDonagh of DCU’s School of Physical Sciences said,

“Dame Jocelyn is a world-class scientist, is Irish-born and makes frequent visits to Ireland.  Her scientific achievements and her passion for, and contribution to, science communication and the advancement of women in science, resonate well with the culture, values and ethos of this university, and merit the award of the highest honour that Dublin City University can bestow.”