Barrie Jones Award Lectures

In 2015, the Open University and the Astrobiology Society of Britain announced a new award to recognise individuals who make an exceptional contribution to the community through outreach and education work relating to astrobiology. The Barrie Jones Award is presented at the Astrobiology Society of Britain’s biennial conferences, and the recipient is then asked to present the Barrie Jones Memorial Lecture, at the Open University. Recorded lectures from previous years are archived below.

The recipient of the first Barrie Jones Award was Prof Lisa Kaltenegger, director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University. Lisa was formally presented with the award, and presented the inaugural Barrie Jones Memorial Lecture, on 7th July 2016. The lecture was attended by an audience including Barrie’s widow, Anne, staff and students from the Open University, and students from high schools around Milton Keynes. In addition, it was streamed live on the internet, and was also recorded for posterity.

The Barrie Jones Award was established to remember Prof Barrie Jones (1941 – 2014), an enthusiastic and inspiring advocate for astronomical outreach and engagement. In addition to an outstanding research carrier, Barrie was a gifted and passionate communicator of science. He played a major role in establishing and developing the Open University’s astronomy courses, through which he inspired countless undergraduate students. He gave regular talks to local astronomical societies across the UK, and served as president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, giving a great deal back to the amateur astronomical community from which he came. He was also the author of several popular astronomy books, as well as two works of fiction, and was a wonderful mentor and friend to his students and colleagues alike.

Previous recipients and recorded lectures


Áine O’Brien, University of Glasgow.

“CSI: Lafayette – Constraining the fall history of the martian meteorite Lafayette using organic contaminants”

At the time of receiving this award, Áine was a PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow studying organic compounds in meteorites; she is also a former high school physics teacher and former Diversity Officer at the Royal Astronomical Society. Áine has delivered high-quality space education and training to schools and organisations in low-income areas and to patients at children’s hospitals, and is a tireless advocate for marginalized communities in STEM, promoting and driving change in the planetary community. In her spare time, she enjoys making the most of the Scottish hills, as well as inviting herself to play dates with all her friends’ pets. Áine’s award Lecture took us on a fascinating tour through her interdisciplinary detective work piecing together the fall date of the Lafayette meteorite.

2022 Barrie Jones Award Lecture: “CSI: Lafayette – Constraining the fall history of the martian meteorite Lafayette using organic contaminants” – Link to the video coming soon


Dr Sarah Rugheimer, University of Oxford.

“Are We Alone in the Universe?”

The recipient of the 2019 award was Dr Sarah Rugheimer, a Glasstone research fellow at the University of Oxford. Dr Rugheimer studied for an undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Calgary, followed by postgraduate degrees in astronomy and astrophysics at Harvard University, which is an exceptional achievement for someone who in her early years actively tried to avoid following her father and siblings into the field. The award lecture, titled ‘Are we alone in the universe?’, followed on from the annual outreach event, Moon Night, also hosted at the Open University. This led to the award lecture being attended by a diverse audience across a broad age range, which complimented Dr Rughemier’s outstanding outreach work in engaging non-traditional STEM groups in STEM subjects which is one of the many reasons she was chosen as this year’s recipient. The award lecture took us on a tour of the range of challenges, techniques, and possible solutions associated with the search for life on exoplanets.

2019 Barrie Jones Award Lecture: “Are We Alone in the Universe?”


Dr Louisa Preston, Birkbeck University of London.

“Searching for Life in the Cosmos”

The recipient of the 2017 award was Dr Louisa Preston, a UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow in Astrobiology at Birkbeck University of London. Dr Preston is a talented researcher, and a gifted and passionate communicator of science who has regularly discussed astrobiology and space science on programs such as BBC Stargazing Live, The Sky at Night, and Horizon. Dr Preston is also a TED Fellow, and recently published her first popular science book: ‘Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universe’. Her prize lecture was entitled “Searching for Life in the Cosmos” and details the exciting and incredible search for life in the Universe.

2017 Barrie Jones Award Lecture: “Searching for Life in the Cosmos”


Lisa Kaltenegger, Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute

“Thousands of New Worlds”

The inaugural recipient of the award was Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute. The award was presented in a ceremony on 7th July 2016 at the Open University campus. The prize lecture is entitled “Thousands of New Worlds” and explores the ways in which we will soon be able to uncover the telltale signatures of life on other worlds beyond our solar system.

2016 Barrie Jones Award Lecture: “Thousands of New Worlds”