Joseph Black Award 2016 Winner
University of York
Awarded for rigorous and ground-breaking work in the field of amino acid racemisation dating and its application to earth and archaeological sciences
About the Winner
Having always loved science, but also been fascinated by the past (both our human history and that of our Earth), Kirsty feels enormously lucky to be able to combine both in her work. Her research focuses on the application of analytical chemistry to archaeological and geological questions. Her Chemistry degree at the University of Oxford provided a unique opportunity to work in the field of archaeological science for her 4th year MChem project; this interest took her to Newcastle for a PhD in geochemistry, and then to York with a postdoc and then a Wellcome fellowship.
Now a Senior Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry at York, her focus is on the analysis of proteins: their pathways of degradation, methods for their detection, and how these molecules can inform us of an organism's life and death history. Since her PhD she has been working on a dating method that covers the last 3 million years, a time period critical for our understanding of climate change and human evolution. She runs the NERC-recognised amino acid dating facility (NEaar), and the importance of this research has led to prizes from the Quaternary Research Association (2008 Lewis Penny Medal), the Geological Society (2010 Lyell Fund award) and the Leverhulme Trust (2012 Philip Leverhulme Prize). She has brought her passion for the real-world applications of analytical science into her teaching as well - a recent initiative in the assessment method for one of her modules elicited students' comments this year including "a brilliant idea!" and "found it really fun!"; feedback that is not common when students talk about assessments!
Professor Penkman's Webpage
University of York
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