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Dr Haley Gomez wins IWA Inspire Wales Award

24th June 2014

Haley Gomez - Image from Institute of Welsh Affairs

Dr Haley Gomez - Image from Institute of Welsh Affairs

In partnership with the Western Mail, each year the Institute of Welsh Affairs hosts the Inspire Wales Awards, an awards scheme that is designed to honour everyday, inspirational people.

The IWA Inspire Wales Awards dinner, this year held on Friday 20th June, in Cardiff City Hall again rewarded those making a difference in Wales.

Dr Haley Gomez from the School of Physics and Astronomy was selected from a strong line-up of nominees in the Science and Technology category, which focuses on the contribution of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related activities in manufacturing and industry, academia or the public sector.

"It was a real honour to be chosen by the judging panel", Dr Gomez said, "I was extremely shocked when they announced my name, especially given the inspirational people nominated that evening. It was great to be recognised for the many programmes we run in schools and the work we've done with our undergraduates and postgraduates in inspiring all kids to enjoy physics and astronomy."

"This award also belongs to the University and to the people who have helped run these programmes including Edward Gomez, Chris North and Sarah Eve Roberts who are crucial to the success of the engagement projects recognised with this honour."

Dr Gomez is a Senior Lecturer in astrophysics at Cardiff University, and conducts research into the origins of cosmic dust using both space- an ground-based, telescopes. She was inspired by Vera Rubin, a female astronomer who was not allowed to do a PhD at an American university (because she was a woman) but worked throughout the night (whilst her husband looked after the children) using a telescope to discover that galaxies contain invisible dark matter –- something she proved with a simple plot of the speed of rotation of stars about the galaxy's centre against their distance from the centre. This discovery of dark matter in the universe is one that many scientists think deserves a Nobel Prize. Reading about Vera Rubin instilled in Dr Gomez the importance of communicating a big scientific breakthrough using everyday physical properties.

2014 Winners - Image from Institute of Welsh Affairs

IWA Inspire Wales Award 2014 Winners - Image from Institute of Welsh Affairs

Her desire to help others does not stop at her day job, however. Dr Gomez has also secured funding from the European Commission and the Welsh Government National Science Academy to run two large projects to help support and train secondary and primary teachers in teaching STEM subjects, with a particular focus on astronomy. She added: "I hope to be able to inspire students of all ages and from all backgrounds to follow their dreams in studying and enjoying STEM."

Dr Gomez is Head of Public Engagement and Outreach for the School of Physics and Astronomy. She is chair of the STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellowship extragalactic panel (which awards fellowships to early career researchers with clear leadership potential in the astronomy, cosmology and particle physics community) and part of the STFC Education and Training committee (which has a budget of 26 million for allocating PhD studentships, summer schools for training and postdoctoral fellowships in these subjects.)