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Lurgan-born astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell hopes science-themed £50 note will raise profile of women in the sector

World-renowned astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell says she hopes the appearance of women in science, alongside her 1967 discovery of pulsars, on new bank notes will help inspire more women in Northern Ireland to pursue scientific careers.

Lurgan-born Dame Jocelyn, who was only the second woman to be awarded the Royal Society’s oldest and highest prize, the Copley Medal, paid a surprise visit to an east Belfast school to mark the introduction of Ulster Bank’s new £50 note, which goes into circulation on June 15.

Pupils at Strathearn School have been studying Dame Jocelyn’s Nobel Prize-winning work and were delighted to find the scientist herself entering their classroom to take a lesson.

Dame Jocelyn talked with the pupils about science as a career and about how pleased she is to have women in science and her work feature on the new bank notes.

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Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell paid a surprise visit to Strathearn School, where she met year 13 pupils (from left) Jess Ryan, Rosie Hardy and Rebekah Devlin

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell paid a surprise visit to Strathearn School, where she met year 13 pupils (from left) Jess Ryan, Rosie Hardy and Rebekah Devlin

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell paid a surprise visit to Strathearn School, where she met year 13 pupils (from left) Jess Ryan, Rosie Hardy and Rebekah Devlin

“This will help raise the profile of women in science, which is a really good thing,” she said.

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“I’m passionate about encouraging more women to pursue scientific careers and I think it’s something that is very important for Northern Ireland. There is a burgeoning scientific sector here. More women pursuing careers in science will support that ongoing growth.”

In addition to featuring Dame Jocelyn’s iconic 1967 discovery of pulsars — spherical, compact objects that are about the size of a large city but contain more mass than the sun — Ulster Bank’s new £50 note also heavily features women working in NI’s fast-growing life sciences industry.

Dame Jocelyn is considered one of the world’s foremost astrophysicists. Her pulsar discovery was a sensational find, recognised with the Nobel Prize In Physics in 1974. She has since been a trailblazing promoter for women and the marginalised in science and was the first woman to be president of the Institute Of Physics.


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