The 3 Minute Wonder science competition grand final 2018

13 November 2018

On Tuesday 22 May 2018, 12 early career physicists competed in the final of 2018's 3 Minute Wonder science competition.

The three minute wonder grand final 2018

Top left: Kate Oliver receives her prize from Professor Mark Miodownik. Bottom left: Chris Bloomer ‘becomes’ carbon. Top right: Eileen Courtney points to the future of graphene–based research. Bottom right: our judges relax with a quick selfie (courtesy of @Frans_Facts). 

Representing IOP nations and branches the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland, the finalists gathered in the Faraday lecture theatre at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. The competition challenged the budding researchers working in physics-related fields (industry or academia) to explain their work in just three minutes, each participant pitching their research to a panel of established science communicators and an interested but non-specialist, audience. 

Each participant could use one slide, one bespoke video and as many props as necessary to illustrate their work. Each contestant was scored by the judges with points being awarded for physics content, presentation skill, level of engagement and entertainment value – but points were also deducted should the presentation finish significantly above the three minute mark. 

This year also saw the return of the ‘audience prize’, which encouraged audience engagement by enabling the general public to choose their champion. 

The judging panel consisted of prominent science communicators – Mark Miodownik (materials scientist, engineer, broadcaster and writer, University College London), Fran Scott (science presenter and Clothworkers' Science Content Producer, Royal Institution), Lindsay Keith (The Refinery TV, University of Greenwich), Chris North (science presenter, author and lecturer, University of Cardiff) and Wendy Sadler (founding director of Science Made Simple) – whose insight concerning the art of science communication proved invaluable and ensured all 12 finalists gained valuable feedback. 

All presentations were informative and entertaining and ranged from finding ‘Dave’ by looking around corners, to revealing nature’s worst kept secret! 

The winner, as scored by the judges, was Kate Oliver from the University of Bristol (finalist from the South West and Wales heat) who taught us how to ‘print’ jelly. The runner up, and winner of the audience prize, was Eileen Courtney from University of Limerick (finalist from the IOP Ireland competition). Congratulations to both. 

Competition host, organiser and co-founder Mark Telling (STFC, IOP VP (membership)) stated: "3MW is not only a great celebration of physics–related academic and industrial research across the UK and Ireland, but also unites our many IOP committees, groups and members by giving us a truly national project on which to collaborate. The insight and feedback about the art of science communication provided by our judging panel proves invaluable and allows the contestants to develop as confident science communicators". 

Of course, this national IOP event would not have been such a success without inventive contributions from all contestants, both regional and at the final, nor realised without the generous support and immense effort of all participating nations and branches, judges and the Institute of Physics and Royal Institution staff members. 

This year’s finalists (affiliation, qualifying heat ) were: Hajime Shinohara (University of Cambridge, East Anglia), Kirsty Taggart (Liverpool John Moores University, Merseyside), Alex Lonergan (University of Cork, IOP Ireland), Eileen Courtney (University of Limerick, IOP Ireland), Chris Bloomer (University of Warwick, London and South East), Kate Oliver (University of Bristol, South West and Wales), Lama Hamadeh (Nottingham Trent University, East Midlands), Hannah Sargeant (Open University, London and South East), Andrew Edwards (Nottingham Trent University, East Midlands), Calum Hill (Heriot-Watt, IOP Scotland), Alison Young (University of Exeter, South West and Wales) and Tomi Baikie (University of Cambridge, East Anglia). 

Thank you all.

3 Minute Wonder returns in 2019 so ask yourself: “Three minutes! What can I do?” 

For further information about the competition please see our 3 Minute Wonder page. The presentations, as well as interviews with Kate and Eileen, can be viewed on the IOP’s YouTube channel.

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