On Tuesday 9 November The Open University will host an inaugural talk by Professor Stephen Lewis, Head of School, Physical Sciences, marking the first on-campus event with an audience since the beginning of the pandemic.
Over 40 people are expected to attend, though those at home can also register to watch the event live online.
Stephen Lewis discussed being back on campus for his inaugural talk:
“I first planned to give my inaugural lecture to accompany my work on the BBC 1 series A Perfect Planet. Unfortunately, the pandemic intervened for both lecture and broadcast.
“Having decided to delay the online version of my lecture, partly to align with the COP26 event, I am really delighted that I will have the first opportunity to give an inaugural lecture on site after the hiatus. It will be a special event to see so many people after such a long time.”
Stephen Lewis, who is also a Professor of Atmospheric Physics, will be delivering his inaugural lecture on the atmospheres, weather, and climate of other planets in the Solar System, entitled Dynamic climates: what can other planets tell us about the Earth?
He will discuss what weather and climate mean on different planets, and how our ability to forecast conditions is now vital for safe exploration by spacecraft. Can the knowledge gained about other worlds help us to understand our own climate better?
Stephen described the examination of dynamic climates and how we can use this when considering Earth’s atmosphere:
“The atmospheres of our neighbouring planets are all fascinating physical systems in their own right. They are key to the surface conditions on any planet and to the way that planet has evolved with time.
“Our ability to forecast atmospheric changes is becoming vital for safe landing and exploration by spacecraft in our own Solar System. In the lecture I will be asking if the knowledge gained about other worlds could also help us to understand our own atmosphere better.”
Stephen also commented on the significance of the research during the current climate crisis and events of COP26:
“The Earth has perhaps the most complex and unusual atmosphere of all. Without our atmosphere, there would be no life.
“A changing climate and more extreme weather patterns, outside our recent experience, is an obvious concern, highlighted by COP26 and surrounding events at the moment. Studying planetary atmospheres is one way to stress test our models and understanding, under conditions far removed from the present-day Earth.
“Research into planetary atmospheres can contribute to the urgent need to understand the changes in our own environment.”
Stephen Lewis researches the dynamics of planetary atmospheres. This includes understanding the dynamics of climate systems, forecasting the weather for spacecraft missions and interpreting the atmospheric observations that they return.
He has won awards for work on spacecraft teams, including NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Curiosity and Perseverance Rovers. Back on Earth, he is a Fellow of The Royal Meteorological Society. Stephen has been the academic consultant on BBC series including Wild Weather, The Planets and A Perfect Planet.
A second inaugural speech by Sarah Crafter will take place on 30 November, which will also be hosted at the university campus and be live streamed on YouTube.
Sarah Crafter is Professor of Cultural-Developmental Psychology (in the School of Psychology and Counselling in the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences). Her work is broadly interested in how the experience of migration impacts on everyday lives of young people. particularly the transition to adulthood. Her current research is part of the ongoing EU Horizon 2020 funded project with an international consortium of experts, awarded €3 million (£2.6 million) to help refugee and migrant children experience an inclusive education.
“The transition to adulthood holds particular challenges for children of migration. In my inaugural lecture I will bring some of those challenges to life, using examples from my own research with child language brokers who translate and interpret for family and friends. I will draw on the concepts of “care”, “critical childhoods” and “migration” to show how anti-immigration contexts frame children’s lived experience.”