Elizabeth Gardner Four-Year Fellowship

New research opportunity seeks to encourage greater diversity within the School community.

Fellowship opportunity

The Elizabeth Gardner Fellowship supports early-career, postdoctoral researchers in physics and astronomy to prepare themselves for future independent roles in academia and beyond.

The Fellowship is aimed at candidates from backgrounds which are under-represented in the School’s academic community (e.g. gender, minority ethnicity, disability, disadvantaged circumstances, etc.).

Supported by a mentor, the Fellowship aims to provide a collegial environment for researchers to develop their research and submit proposals to secure external research funding (e.g. a 5-year Research Fellowship, such as a Royal Society University Research Fellowship; an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship; or an European Research Council fellowship) and, where appropriate, other external research resources such as telescope/facility time.

The deadline for applications is 17:00, Monday 28 February 2022 (extended from 14 February).

Elizabeth Gardner

The Elizabeth Gardner Fellowship honours the outstanding achievements of Elizabeth Gardner (1957 - 1988). Gardner studied Mathematical Physics at the University of Edinburgh, graduating with first class honours, and was awarded the Tait Medal, Robert Schlapp Prize, and the Class Medal. After studying for a DPhil at the University of Oxford, she later returned to the School of Physics and Astronomy in 1984 as a Research Fellow. Her works on the optimal storage of neural networks have been selected as two of the most influential papers in the 50th anniversary of Journal of Physics A.

Head of School, Professor Jim Dunlop commented:

The Elizabeth Gardner Fellowship reflects the commitment of the School towards making our community a supportive, inclusive and rewarding place for all colleagues to work, and our passion for supporting the career development of a diverse range of early career researchers.

Professor Martin Evans, Director of Research, who was a PhD student under Elizabeth Gardner said:

Elizabeth was a brilliant young scientist whose work is still currency today: the 'Gardner Volume' remains a cornerstone of the theory of neural networks and the 'Gardner transition', predicted by Elizabeth in 1985, has recently been confirmed in diverse contexts ranging from jamming of amorphous materials to theoretical ecology. As an early career researcher in Edinburgh, Elizabeth was a thoughtful and caring supervisor, and this fellowship is a fitting tribute to her memory.

Professor Annette Zippelius, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, former collaborator with Elizabeth Gardner commented:

I deeply admire Elizabeth’s work on spin glasses and neural networks. Her computation of the capacity of the perceptron is ground-breaking work for generations to come. It combines sophisticated techniques with a clear view on the relevant physics, a masterpiece so to say. Her work is an outstanding example of a powerful analytical calculation in a field where these are rare. I think it is a great idea to set up a Gardner fellowship in Edinburgh. Elizabeth is definitely a role model for young women in physics and a fellowship in her name will be a powerful tool to promote young women in science.

Sir David Wallace, former Head of Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh:

Elizabeth was an interesting person. On the face of it, when you met her, she was quite shy, quite retiring, very self-effacing, until she started talking about physics and mathematical physics and then she just opened up as a person. She was such a curious and interested person, and Elizabeth had wider curiosity than just fundamental physics, anything that was challenging, really. Her science was strong as is attested by the impact her work has made later, after her death, and the significant legacy she has left.

Professor Giorgio Parisi, Nobel laureate 2021 said:

I regret that I never had the intellectual pleasure to work with Elizabeth. She was a great scientist and she has given fundamental contributions to the development of statistical mechanics. I have spent my last ten years working on problems related to the Gardner transition in glasses and in other systems. The Elizabeth Gardner Fellowship is a great idea that I strongly support: we must remember our best scientists.

Professor Bernard Derrida, Collège de France, former collaborator commented:

I certainly very much support the idea of this fellowship in the name of Elizabeth. Working with Elizabeth was both pleasant and very stimulating, she was quick to understand and to push very difficult calculations. She was shy but very friendly and I feel that I was very lucky to collaborate with her and I learnt so much during our collaborations. More than 30 years after her death, we can clearly measure the impact of her work, and given that she did all that before she was 30, one can only imagine what her influence on theoretical physics could have been if she had lived longer. Despite her illness, she made wonderful contributions during the last two years of her life, without complaining or even mentioning her health problems.