John Plane receives AGU’s coveted Marcel Nicolet Lecture

Professor John Plane FRS, of the University’s School of Chemistry, has been celebrated for his “selfless dedication to advancing Earth and space sciences” by the American Geophysical Union.

The AGU – the world’s largest Earth and space science association – has named Professor Plane the recipient of the 2023 Space Physics and Aeronomy Marcel Nicolet Lecture. The organisation annually recognises a select number of individuals as part of its Honors and Recognition program.

Honourees are chosen for meritorious work or service toward the advancement and promotion of discovery and solution science. The AGU’s Space Physics and Aeronomy Section selected Professor Plane for his many significant contributions to the field of aeronomy.

During his career, Professor Plane and his group have investigated many phenomena important for planetary atmospheres through laboratory experiments, atmospheric observations, and modelling calculations. Among other topics, he has made seminal contributions advancing our understanding of cosmic dust in planetary atmospheres, particularly the chemistry of the metals like sodium and iron that ablate during atmospheric entry.

Professor Plane said his latest accolade was a “huge honour” and highlighted the personal inspiration that Marcel Nicolet, who the lecture is named after, had on his storied career.

“Nicolet was a Belgian atmospheric scientist who made enormous contributions to the science of the Earth’s stratosphere, mesosphere and ionosphere,” he said. “In fact, he and British geophysicist Sydney Chapman together defined and named the layers of the atmosphere when they were both working in California in the 1950s.

“He also published a fundamental paper in 1950 which attempted to account for the layer of sodium atoms that occurs globally around 90 km in the atmosphere. This paper was a big influence during my PhD 30 years later, and will be the starting point of my Nicolet lecture in December.”

Professor Plane and his fellow honourees will be recognised at AGU23 in San Francisco between 11 and 15 December, which will bring together more than 25,000 attendees from over 100 countries at the city’s Moscone Center.

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