Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Role Models

Gillian Gehring

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Professor Gillian Gehring, OBE

Awards: IOP Mott Medal; Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship


Professor Gillian Gehring who joined the University of Sheffield's Physics and Astronomy Department in 1989 was only the second female physics professor in the UK at that time. She retired from teaching at the end of the 05/06 academic year and become an Emeritus Professor. She has research grants in place to continue her work on magnetic oxides and is also starting a new project on the design of diffusers for concert halls. She has been awarded two prestigious Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowships: the first in order to continue her very fruitful collaboration with Chinese colleagues and the second one to develop and extend her work on an oxide magnetic semiconductor.

Much of Gillian's research has been concerned with different phase transitions and her work on cooperative Jahn Teller Effect is very well known. She studied the Random Field model before it had become well known and gave the theory of the phase diagram that took the random fluctuations into account. Linear Birefringence is one of the most accurate methods to study distortions in transparent crystals and she gave the first microscopic theory of this effect, first for Jahn Teller transitions and then more generally for magnetic transitions. She was the first to derive a theory that unified the domains that form in ferromagnetic systems below the phase transition with the critical fluctuations above the phase transition.  Quantum phase transitions are challenging because the ground state must be determined. Gehring provided one of the first demonstrations of the strength of the Density Matrix Renormalisation Group to study quantum phase transitions, being the first to generalise it to finite temperature.

At Sheffield, Gehring developed related research on magnetic oxides and founded a group to study the magnetic properties of Fe3O4 and the mixed valent manganites .This has led to the Sheffield’s group pre-eminent position in this field. Most recently, Gehring initiated the study of magnetically doped ZnO and the group has been leading the work in this area combining optical and electronic measurements.

Professor Gehring has an Hon DSc from Salford and from Sheffield. She is due to be awarded another from Hull in January 2013.

During her retirement Gillian has developed presentations for schools – being anxious both to demonstrate that science is interesting and also that it is done successfully by women. She is also the chair of governors of a large primary school.

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