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Brief Bio

I started my research career at the National Physical Laboratory in the Optical and Environmental Metrology department where I worked for four years on a variety of different and exciting projects. This included developing the world's first infrared spectroscopy calibration facility based on Fourier Transform Spectroscopy and it was this that started my passion for very very precise measurements and everything that is "light". Next came the formal training that is "the PhD". It was an easy decision to go back to university when the opportunity arose to study at Oxford University. Especially as this area of study was in a research area that merged space science with my new found love of spectroscopy. My DPhil was in the development of a miniaturised Fourier Transform spectrometer for space based remote sensing of planetary atmospheres. It was this work that fuelled my enthusiasm for space research and I am now working as a research scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
My main research focus is in the development of novel spectroscopic techniques to analyse the composition of terrestrial and extraterrestrial atmospheric gases. I am also leading a variety of national and international research activities and have previously worked on space based remote sensing instrumentation, the Composite Modular Sounder (CMS) which is currently on Techdemosat and the SLSTR instrument based on the Sentinel 3 satellite.

I am especially passionate about the communication of science, its importance, its impact and its value in society. I am involved with several outreach projects which include speaking about space science, planetary atmospheres and our climate, at schools and science festivals. I believe that one of main responsibilities of the scientist is to communicate the results of their research not just to their peers, but to communicate the impact of their work to the wider audience of the general public. One of the areas that have focused is the use of art to communicate the impact and importance of science. By linking the arts with the sciences I feel that we can reach audiences that traditionally are not targeted by typical outreach activities. I have therefore been science adviser on a variety of Art projects, and set up the Artist in Residency programme at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. This has given me the opportunity to work with the Turner prize winning artist Elizabeth Price on the piece Sunlight and I am currently working on a project linking science with dance through a piece called 8 minutes. I have also previously provided scientific advice on the Ridley Scott film “Prometheus”, which is a prequel to successful Alien series.


Art and Science

Science is a based on substantiated facts, with no latitude for the scientist to add their subjective opinion, leaving them to find the raw patterns within life, the stars and the cosmos. Art can provide the interpretation that can bring that science to life, show meaning to those that are untrained and provide insight to the way that humanity understands and interacts with their surroundings. The art/science collaborative projects can give perspective to science so that it can be understood by the general public and with the aim of engaging them to new areas of research. It is through the artist’s unique perspective on the scientist’s objective analysis of real world data that I feels is the most powerful aspect of these projects, and why I am passionate about them. If just one person, as a result of the outstanding work of the artists, is inspired, informed or excited about the importance of space, then I feel the project has been a success.


-  Dr Hugh Mortimer.

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