IOP in Ireland Annual Report 2013

Institute of Physics in Ireland | April 2013
Annual report
Activities and outreach • Education • Policy
Activities and outreach
“2012 – A remarkable year for physics”, so commented
IOP Ireland Chair Dr Kevin McGuigan at the Institute’s
Christmas reception. With historic accomplishments like
glimpsing the Higgs boson at Cern, and the Mars Rover
touching down successfully on the Red Planet, interest
in physics has certainly been piqued worldwide.
2012 also brought another Nobel Laureate to Dublin,
Prof. Bill Phillips, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics
for development of methods to cool and trap atoms
with laser light. Prof. Phillips was the keynote speaker
at IOP’s Rosse Medal competition for communicating
postgraduate research. The winner of the competition
was Nina Berner of Trinity College Dublin.
Closer to home, IOP Ireland celebrated physics at the
highest levels with its High Flyers event in May, which
brought together renowned physicists on areas ranging
from the discovery of quarks to the mysteries of the
universe. Speakers included Nobel physicist Jerome
Friedman, who uncovered the first experimental evidence
of quarks; Boyle Medal winner Margaret Murnane, an Irish
physicist at the very forefront of ultrashort pulsed laser
research; 2010 Physics Wolf Prize winner Anton Zeilinger,
a world-renowned pioneer in the field of quantum
information; Schawlow Prize winner Henry Kapteyn
whose pioneering work has pushed X-ray source research
to the very brink of laser-like technology; and bringing
it all together Cecilia Jarlskog, 2011 President of the
International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.
Silver medals for top performances in end-of-school
exams were presented by Kevin McGuigan. In Northern
Ireland the top A-level student in physics was Sana
Ashraf of Strathearn College, Belfast. Sana is currently
studying medicine at Queen’s University Belfast, while
Brian Traynor and Eoin Coleman were awarded the
IOP medal for the top place in the physics Leaving
Certificate. Brian, a student of Virginia College,
Co. Cavan, is studying nanoscience at Trinity College
Dublin, while Eoin from St Attracta’s Community School,
Tubbercurry in Sligo, has been accepted for medicine.
The High Flyers event was part of IOP Ireland’s
contribution to the European Science Open Forum.
Another physics highlight from ESOF was the
performance of the IOP Science on Stage buskers who
entertained and educated everyone on Grafton Street
and in the Convention Centre during ESOF.
IOP continued its work to raise awareness of careers in
physics at events in Dublin, Belfast, Cavan and Sligo,
distributing thousands of copies of its publication
28 Days, 28 Physicists, which was financially supported
by Discover Science and Engineering. In addition the
very striking Jobs for Physicists advertisement featured
on buses throughout Ireland.
Steve Myers speaking at the Frontiers of
Physics Teachers Conference.
Bill Phillips demonstrates “Time, Einstein and the coolest stuff in the
universe” at IOP’s Rosse Medal competition.
Young Scientist exhibition
A very special highlight for IOP members and friends
was the honouring of Dr Tony Scott at the People of
the Year Awards in September 2012. Tony, along with
the late Rev. Dr Tom Burke, established the Young
Scientist Exhibition in 1963, with 230 research
projects exhibited. Today, it is the longest-running
event of its kind in Ireland and Europe, and the second
longest-running worldwide. IOP continues to strongly
support the event with an annual exhibition and the
awarding of the prize for the best physics project. This
year, the prize was won by three Galway students for
their project “Safreeze-indicating whether frozen food
is safe to consume or not”. Sean Reilly and Ellen Leahy
(age 17) worked with 16-year-old Owen McDonnell, all in IOP Ireland highlights opportunities for physicists.
the fifth year at Coláiste na Coiribe in Galway, to devise
a method of determining whether frozen food had been The excitement of the Higgs boson confirmation was
previously defrosted and then refrozen.
a particular highlight of the annual physics teachers’
conference Frontiers, when Belfast-born Steve Myers,
director of accelerators at CERN, spoke of the drama
of the achievement. The conference, which was held
in Trinity College Dublin, also featured Karen Bultitude
2012 also saw Alison Hackett, IOP representative in
of UCL on gender-aware teaching practice and Martyn
Ireland for almost 13 years, leave the Institute. Alison’s
Wheeler from Leicester on WiiMote physics. From
outstanding contribution to physics in Ireland was
Trinity’s School of Physics, Peter Gallagher spoke
warmly recognised at a special event in August to mark
on tuning in the radio Sun, Jonathan Coleman on
her work. A short time later, Dr Liz Conlon joined the
nanoparticles and Matthias Möbius on granular flows.
IOP Ireland team. Based at the Northern Ireland Science
Park, Liz, who has a background in astronomy, is the
The teacher network co-ordinators also contributed
Institute’s education and promotions advisor.
physics demonstrations to many other events around
the country, including the Mallow Science Festival,
Maths in the City and Maths in the Botanic Gardens.
They also worked closely with the Irish Science Teachers
The five teacher network co-ordinators at IOP Ireland have Association and the Association for Science Education
provided tremendous support for hundreds of teachers
to provide support, particularly for newly qualified
throughout the island, with many workshops – ranging
teachers and non-specialist physics teachers.
from the Virtual Physics Laboratory to rockets – events
and newsletters produced, and exam papers reviewed.
This year’s Tyndall lecture tour looked closely at nuclear
Much of this work has been done in conjunction with the
fusion with hundreds of school students across Ireland
Professional Development Service for Teachers and with
coming to a series of lectures given in eight venues by
the Northern Ireland Department of Education.
Dr Melanie Windridge.
Images (left to right):
Brian Traynor and Sana Ashraf with
medals for top Leaving Certificate and
A-level physics students; the IOP chief
executive presents Sean Reilly, Ellen
Leahy and Owen McDonnell with their
award for the best physics project at BT
Young Scientist; Minister for Research
and Innovation Sean Sherlock speaking
at the launch of the physics economy
report; the Physics in Time ceramic
mural at St Joseph’s College, Lucan,
part-sponsored by IOP Ireland; Tony
Scott at the People of the Year Awards.
Staff movement
IOP continued
its work to raise
awareness of
careers in physics
at events in
Dublin, Belfast,
Cavan and Sligo
The importance of physics to the economy
£1.5 bn
contributed more
than £1.5 bn to the
Northern Irish
economy in 2010.
¤7 bn
businesses directly
€7 bn to the Irish
economy in 2010.
£1.5 bn annually
to the economy in
Northern Ireland
sectors employ
26,000 people, a
3.8% share of jobs
in Northern Ireland.
¤23 bn
sectors exported
more than €23 bn
worth of goods and
services in 2009.
While somewhat gloomy economy matters loomed
large on every front across the island, there was good
news to be found in the Institute’s reports on the
importance of physics to the economy. In Ireland,
despite the hard-hitting recession, the physics base
contributed more than €7 bn annually to the economy,
with 86,000 people employed directly from the
country’s physics base. In Northern Ireland it was noted
that physics-based businesses employ more than
26,000 people, which is significantly higher than the
number employed in finance, banking and insurance.
In addition, the value that employees in physics-based
businesses add to the Northern Ireland economy is
almost double that of the average UK employee; in
2010, the gross value added (GVA, analogous to gross
domestic product, or GDP) by the average UK employee
was £36,000, while the average employee in a
physics-based business in Northern Ireland contributed
approximately £57,000.
The Institute also contributed to consultations on
many issues affecting physics, including Northern
The share of
manufacturing jobs
in Northern Irish
sectors is larger
than the rest of
the UK.
¤1 bn
expenditure on
research and
(R&D) exceeded
€1 bn in 2009.
businesses directly
contribute 8.8% of
Northern Ireland’s
economic output.
4.5% of the Irish
workforce are
directly employed
in physics-based
jobs; 86,000
Ireland careers advice service, reforms to the GCE and
GCSE exams, funding of science research, and entry
qualifications for physics teachers.
In addition a new IOP Ireland policy leaflet for Northern
Ireland – aimed at politicians – was produced and is
being distributed at a number of events at Stormont.
In Northern Ireland, IOP Ireland has played an active
role in the newly established All Party Group on Science
at Stormont. This grouping of assembly members and
professional science bodies aims to draw attention to
science issues and to provide access to speakers and
relevant research. It has organised a series of events,
such as Science at Stormont, debates on topical issues
such as fracking and information sessions on DNA
IOP Ireland has had a number of meetings with
politicians, ministers and senior civil servants on both
sides of the Irish border to both raise concerns and to
offer help in implementing possible solutions. In the
coming year we will continue to strongly press the case
that investment in physics is a key factor in the island’s
economic recovery.
Institute of Physics in Ireland
c/o School of Physics, Science Centre North,
University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4
Tel +353 86 2600903 Fax 01 2837275
E-mail [email protected] Web
The Innovation Centre NI Science Park
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