Culham’s fusion researcher strikes Gold with science in Parliament

21 March 2011

Dr Ian Chapman, 28, an early career researcher at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, hailing from Guernsey, struck Gold at a competition in the House of Commons for the excellence of his scientific research last week.

Ian presented his physics research to more than one hundred politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of SET for Britain, on Monday 14 March.

His research, which shows how physicists at Culham are helping to develop a clean, long-term energy source via nuclear fusion, which involves heating fuel to temperatures over 100 million degrees Celsius and using magnets to control the incredibly hot plasma, was judged against 29 other shortlisted physicists’ work.

On winning Gold and the £3,000 prize, Ian said, “I’m shocked and flattered! I really don’t feel like this is a prize for me, but rather recognition of the importance of fusion research and the exceptional work that is being done at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.”

SET for Britain is a competition in the House of Commons which involves researchers displaying posters of their work to panels of expert judges and more than 100 MPs.

Ellen Williams, Chief Scientist, BP, who sponsored the £3,000 Gold medal, said, “I'm extremely impressed by the ideas I have seen and the young budding scientists I have met tonight. For companies like BP, that are involved in tackling hugely complex energy issues, science plays an ever more important role.

“So it's fantastic to see some of the UK's best new research talent all in one room and with one common objective: to ensure science plays a critical role in addressing the major challenges we face.”

On the event, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of the Institute of Physics, said, "It's never been so important that politicians have a solid grasp of physics, and that's why SET for Britain is such a valuable event. Advances in physics underpin our daily existence, from the physics in the GPS we use to drive to work to the physics behind the electricity which powers our homes. All of the presenters here today deserve our praise and admiration for tackling such worthy work."

The event aims to help politicians understand more about the UK’s thriving science base and rewards some of the strongest scientific research being undertaken in the UK.

Professor Brian Cox, TV star physicist, who visited the event to meet the researchers and present the Westminster Medal, awarded to the overall winner, said, “It’s been amazing to see the range of work on display, you can’t help but feel assured that science and engineering are going to provide answers to the UK’s most pressing concerns, from climate change to cyber security.

“Most importantly of all, these young researchers will continue to explore nature. Driven by their curiosity and skill, who knows what they will discover?

“Politicians take note; the researchers here today are this country’s future. It is your job to ensure that Britain is the best place in the world for them to continue their research."

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee ran the event in collaboration with The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Institute of Physics, the Society of Biology, The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Society of Chemical Industry, with financial support from BP, E.ON, plantimpact, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, International Agri-Technology Centre Ltd, AgChem Access, Eli Lilly and Oxford Instruments.