Posted on 29 April 2016
Professor Pratibha Gai, JEOL Professor of Electron Microscopy, Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, and founding co-director of the York JEOL Nanocentre, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in recognition of her ground-breaking work on new materials, processes and electron microscopy. This highly prestigious fellowship is the top honour in UK science, and Pratibha becomes the fifth FRS in the Department of Chemistry, joining Professors Eleanor Dodson, John Goodby, Robin Perutz and Gideon Davies.
Pratibha studies dynamic chemical processes on the atomic scale. Her research focuses on the development of new nanomaterials and chemical processes for use in a range of high technology applications, including catalysis, energy, healthcare, chemicals and food coatings; and novel electron microscopies. Her process and microscopy inventions are being used worldwide.
Her great innovation was to create a whole new type of electron microscope which allowed researchers to visualise reactions as they actually happen at the atomic level, in the real conditions which they would normally occur. In order to achieve this, she needed to drill a hole in the imaging lens of the microscope - something she has described as being 'like drilling a hole through a person’s heart or drilling a hole through a camera lens'. By taking this calculated risk with very specialised equipment, a whole new area of imaging was opened up, transforming the field.
On hearing the news of her FRS award, Pratibha said: 'I am greatly honoured and thrilled to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society and pleased that my research has received this wonderful recognition. This prestigious fellowship belongs not just to me but to all the outstanding co-researchers I have collaborated with.'
Pratibha's research has previously been recognised by the L'Oreal Unesco Women in Science Award for Europe in 2013 and the Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Her career, research and personal pathway into science have also been highlighted by The Royal Society of Chemistry who named her as one of their 175 diverse Faces of Chemistry.
Prior to her current York assignments, Pratibha held positions in the USA and at the University of Oxford after receiving her PhD in physics from the University of Cambridge.