Michele Dougherty

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Michele Dougherty

Michele Dougherty
Michele Dougherty addressing the April 2015 meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society
Michele Karen Dougherty

1962 (age 56–57)[1]
Alma materUniversity of Natal (PhD)[2]
Known forMagnetometer instrumentation for the Cassini-Huygens mission
Scientific career
InstitutionsImperial College London

Michele Karen Dougherty FRS CBE FRAS[4] (born 1962)[1][5] is a Professor of Space Physics at Imperial College London.[6][7] She is leading unmanned exploratory missions to Saturn and Jupiter and is Principal Investigator for J-MAG - a magnetometer for the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) of the European Space Agencies (ESA) due for launch June 2022.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Michele Dougherty became interested in outer space when she was ten years old, when her father built a 10-inch telescope through which she saw the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.[8] Dougherty was educated at the University of Natal where she was awarded a PhD in 1989 for research on wave-particle interactions in dispersive and anisotropic media.[9]


Dougherty left South Africa for a fellowship in Germany, working on applied mathematics, before moving to Imperial College London in 1991.[8] She was appointed a Professor of Space Physics in 2004 and teachers undergraduates alongside her research.[10] She is Head of the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.[11]

Dougherty is the Principal Investigator for two major space missions; the NASA Cassini spacecraft that orbited Saturn and the ESA JUICE spacecraft that will orbit Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede.[12]

Dougherty's work led to the discovery of an atmosphere containing water and hydrocarbons around Saturn’s moon Enceladus — opening up new possibilities in the search for extraterrestrial life.[4][13][14]

Dougherty is distinguished[by whom?] "for her scientific leadership of the international NASA-ESA-ASI Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moons".[citation needed] As Principal Investigator of the operation, data collection and analysis of observations from the magnetic field instrument on board the Cassini spacecraft, she strongly contributed to improve our understanding of Saturn and the Moons of Saturn.[15][16][17][18][19][20] Dougherty cites the flybys of Saturn's moons as a highlight of her career; convincing the NASA spacecraft team to make a closer than usual approach “I watched the data coming back with my heart in my mouth because if we had messed up no one would have ever believed me again!".[21]

Before working on the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, Dougherty was involved in the magnetometer team for the Jupiter analysis of the Ulysses mission. She was also Guest Investigator on the NASA Jupiter System Data Analysis Program as part of the Galileo unmanned spacecraft.[22]

She regularly delivers public lectures and appears on national media.[23][24][25][26] She was the guest scientist on Jim Al Khalili's Life Scientific.[27]

Awards and honours[edit]

Dougherty was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS) in 1995[28][not in citation given].

In 2007 she won the Chree Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics for "her contributions to the field of planetary magnetic fields and atmospheres and their interactions with the solar wind".[29]

Dougherty won the 2008 Hughes Medal[30] of the Royal Society "for innovative use of magnetic field data that led to discovery of an atmosphere around one of Saturn's moons and the way it revolutionised our view of the role of planetary moons in the Solar System". She was the second woman ever to receive such an accolade, 102 years after Hertha Ayrton in 1906.[31]

Dougherty was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2012[4] and was recognized by the UK Science Council as one of the 100 top UK living scientists.[32] She was awarded a prestigious Royal Society Research Professorship in 2014.[12]

Dougherty was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society for geophysics in 2017, the fifth woman ever to receive the honour.[3]

Dougherty has contributed significantly to the UK space sector, and chaired the Science Programme Advisory Committee of the UK Space Agency between 2014 and 2016.[33] She was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2018 New Year Honours for "services to UK Physical Science Research".[34][35] Dougherty won the 2018 Richard Glazebrook Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics.


  1. ^ a b Anon (2016). DOUGHERTY, Prof. Michele Karen. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.262751. closed access publication – behind paywall (subscription required)
  2. ^ Anon (2013). "UKZN alumnus awarded for her excellence in science". ukzn.ac.za. University of Natal. Archived from the original on 2013-03-17. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
  3. ^ a b Anon (11 January 2017). "RAS honours leading astronomers and geophysicists". ras.org.uk. Royal Astronomical Society. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Anon (2012). "Professor Michele Dougherty FRS". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-09.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

  5. ^ "Michele Dougherty, British astrophysicist". Science Photo Library. 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Professor Michele Dougherty, Professor of Space Physics, Imperial College London". Archived from the original on 2012-04-20.
  7. ^ a b Al-Khalili, Jim (2017). "Michele Dougherty interview". bbc.co.uk. BBC Radio 4. from The Life Scientific

    The Cassini mission into deep space has sent back some wonderful colour images of Saturn. It's witnessed raging storms, flown between its enigmatic rings and revealed seven new moons. And, thanks in no small part to Professor Michelle Dougherty - it's made some astonishing discoveries.

  8. ^ a b "Michele Dougherty | People - NASA Solar System Exploration". NASA Solar System Exploration. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  9. ^ Karen Dougherty, Michele (1988). Wave-particle interactions in dispersive and anisotropic media (PhD thesis). University of Natal. OCLC 890036806.
  10. ^ "Home - Professor Michele Dougherty". www.imperial.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  11. ^ "Head of Department of Physics". Announcements. 2017-04-27. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  12. ^ a b "Top scientists receive Royal Society Research Professorships to fund long-term UK research". royalsociety.org. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  13. ^ Gladstone, G. R.; Waite, J. H.; Grodent, D.; Lewis, W. S.; Crary, F. J.; Elsner, R. F.; Weisskopf, M. C.; Majeed, T.; Jahn, J.-M.; Bhardwaj, A.; Clarke, J. T.; Young, D. T.; Dougherty, M. K.; Espinosa, S. A.; Cravens, T. E. (2002). "A pulsating auroral X-ray hot spot on Jupiter". Nature. 415 (6875): 1000–1003. Bibcode:2002Natur.415.1000G. doi:10.1038/4151000a. PMID 11875561.
  14. ^ Backes, H. (2005). "Titan's Magnetic Field Signature During the First Cassini Encounter". Science. New York: American Association for the Advancement of Science. 308 (5724): 992–995. Bibcode:2005Sci...308..992B. doi:10.1126/science.1109763. PMID 15890875.
  15. ^ Cutler, Jack (2014). The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability on the Kronian magnetopause (PhD thesis). Imperial College London. open access publication – free to read
  16. ^ Went, Daniel Robert (2011). Magnetic field and plasma in Saturn's near space environment (PhD thesis). Imperial College London. OCLC 930625731. open access publication – free to read
  17. ^ Arridge, C. S.; Eastwood, J. P.; Jackman, C. M.; Poh, G.-K.; Slavin, J. A.; Thomsen, M. F.; André, N.; Jia, X.; Kidder, A.; Lamy, L.; Radioti, A.; Reisenfeld, D. B.; Sergis, N.; Volwerk, M.; Walsh, A. P.; Zarka, P.; Coates, A. J.; Dougherty, M. K. (2015). "Cassini in situ observations of long-duration magnetic reconnection in Saturn's magnetotail". Nature Physics. 12 (3): 268–271. arXiv:1512.06980. Bibcode:2016NatPh..12..268A. doi:10.1038/nphys3565.
  18. ^ Crary, F. J.; Clarke, J. T.; Dougherty, M. K.; Hanlon, P. G.; Hansen, K. C.; Steinberg, J. T.; Barraclough, B. L.; Coates, A. J.; Gérard, J.-C.; Grodent, D.; Kurth, W. S.; Mitchell, D. G.; Rymer, A. M.; Young, D. T. (2005). "Solar wind dynamic pressure and electric field as the main factors controlling Saturn's aurorae". Nature. 433 (7027): 720–722. Bibcode:2005Natur.433..720C. doi:10.1038/nature03333.
  19. ^ Bunce, E. J.; Arridge, C. S.; Clarke, J. T.; Coates, A. J.; Cowley, S. W. H.; Dougherty, M. K.; Gérard, J.-C.; Grodent, D.; Hansen, K. C.; Nichols, J. D.; Southwood, D. J.; Talboys, D. L. (2008). "Origin of Saturn's aurora: Simultaneous observations by Cassini and the Hubble Space Telescope" (PDF). Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics. 113 (A9): n/a–n/a. Bibcode:2008JGRA..113.9209B. doi:10.1029/2008JA013257. ISSN 0148-0227.
  20. ^ Espinosa, Stéphane A.; Dougherty, Michele K. (2000). "Periodic perturbations in Saturn's magnetic field". Geophysical Research Letters. 27 (17): 2785–2788. Bibcode:2000GeoRL..27.2785E. doi:10.1029/2000GL000048.
  21. ^ Gallagher, Laura (2014-10-31). "Professor Michele Dougherty talks about space missions and her first telescope". Imperial College London. Archived from the original on 2015-09-19. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  22. ^ Anon (2000). "Michele Dougherty FRS Home Page". ic.ac.uk. London.
  23. ^ euronews (in English) (2017-09-12), Cassini scientist Michele Dougherty from Imperial College London talks Saturn, Enceladus and Titan, retrieved 2017-12-30
  24. ^ "Michele Dougherty". New Scientist Live 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  25. ^ "Imperial College Talks: First Saturn, then Jupiter — Royal Albert Hall". Royal Albert Hall. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  26. ^ "UKSEDS National Student Space Conference". UKSEDS.org. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  27. ^ "Michele Dougherty on Saturn, The Life Scientific - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  28. ^ RAS Papers 1
  29. ^ Physics, Institute of. "Appleton medal recipients". www.iop.org. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  30. ^ "List of 21st century winners of the Hughes Medal". royalsociety.org.
  31. ^ Barrett, Anne (2017). Women at Imperial College; Past, Present and Future. World Scientific Europe. p. 215. ISBN 1786342626.
  32. ^ Jackson, Caroline (2014). "Congratulations Professor Michele Dougherty - named in top 100 Scientists". imperial.ac.uk.
  33. ^ "New Chairs for two UK Space Agency Advisory Committees - SpaceRef". spaceref.com. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  34. ^ "2018 New Year Honours List". www.gov.uk.
  35. ^ "Britain's first astronaut and Professor of Space Physics receive New Year's honours - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-30.