Three Minute Wonder Competition

10 April 2012

Magnetic levitation, CP violation and the use of optical tweezers were among the subjects tackled by entrants to the Three Minute Wonder competition held by the Institute’s East Anglia Branch in Cambridge on 26 January.

Three Minute Wonder Competition
Photo: Richard Lewis

Researchers and PhD students were challenged to explain their work in a physics-related field to a non-specialist audience in exactly three minutes, with judges scoring their efforts with marks out of 10.

The winner was Gareth Conduit, a research fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, who described his work on alloys and aircraft failure. He received £250 in cash. The runner-up, who received £100, was Niraj Lal, a Gates Scholar at the Cavendish Laboratory. His presentation was on solar cells and Buddhist singing bowls. Third place went to Adam Collins, a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory, for his talk on environmentally-friendly explosives.

The IOP’s president, Prof. Sir Peter Knight, who was one of the four judges, spoke at the event about the Institute’s Physics for All campaign. This promotes the case for a high standard of physics education at secondary level in the UK and Ireland by posing some pertinent questions for schools and colleges, such as how many specialist physics teachers they have and how many students take physics at A-level, Advanced Higher of Leaving Certificate.

The campaign is encouraging IOP members to put such questions to their local school or college heads, principles or governors when they meet them on occasions such as open days, visits and parents’ or governors’ meetings.

Urging physicists to get involved in the campaign, Sir Peter said that many keen and interested students did not have access to a high-quality physics education. He then went on to say, “now that decision making was being increasingly devolved to individual schools and colleges, it becomes even more important to influence the key figures at schools and college level.”