Cathryn Mitchell, M0IBG, the academic director of the University of Bath Doctoral College in the UK, has received the 2019 Edward Appleton Medal and Prize for her pioneering research in tomography and data assimilation that revealed a completely new perspective on the ionosphere in response to extreme space weather.
The award’s namesake, Edward Appleton, won the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physics for his 1924 work that proved the existence of the ionosphere. Radio amateurs participated in listening tests during the early 1920s that provided data regarding how radio signals propagate.
According to the award announcement, Mitchell’s research “fundamentally changed” the understanding of the ionosphere. Her deep-field experimental work to collect tomographic radio signals has taken her to both poles and altered the understanding of the relationship between plasma density irregularities and optical aurora, leading to the discovery of disruptive radio propagation effects on satellite signals used for navigation and timing. The research could help to improve the accuracy and reliability of satellite navigation systems.
Mitchell holds a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Knowledge Exchange Fellowship and recently acted in advisory roles for UK and US governmental bodies and for the European Space Agency. She is the author of more than 100 journal papers, and her tomography algorithms are licensed to other research organizations in the UK and around the world.