Oxford researcher strikes Gold with physics display in Parliament

13 March 2012

Kevin O’Keeffe, 34, a post-doctoral researcher in the Atomic and Laser Department at the University of Oxford, struck Gold at a competition in the House of Commons, for the excellence of his physics research today, walking away with a £3,000 prize.

Andrew Miller MP, Professor Sir Peter Knight, BP's Ellen Williams and Kevin O'Keeffe

Kevin presented his physics research to dozens of politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of the poster competition SET for Britain, on Monday 12 March.

His research, which involves generating sources of coherent x-ray radiation in order to measure very fast chemical reactions, was judged against 29 other shortlisted researchers’ work and came out on top.

Kevin said, “I’m surprised and happy.  I really didn’t expect to win. There’s some great research on display.  It’s really nice to get the recognition and acknowledgement that the research we are doing is important.”

Silver and Bronze medals were also awarded.  Silver went to Hannah Arnold, also from Oxford, for research on predicting uncertainty in weather and climate forecasts, while Bronze went to Daniel Elford from Loughborough University for research on noise barrier technology.

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 politicians.

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

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said, “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. 

“These early career scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

Ellen Williams, Chief Scientist at BP, sponsors of the Chemical & Physical Sciences award, said, “As with last year, I am hugely impressed with the enthusiasm, creativity and insights of the young scientists I met today.

“As a major UK recruiter and investor in research and development, it is reassuring for BP that the next generation of scientific talent is emerging, ready to apply fresh thinking to everything from medicine to new energy solutions.”

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee run the event in collaboration with The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Institute of Physics, the Society of Biology, The Royal Society of Chemistry, the Physiological Society, the Wellcome Trust and the Society of Chemical Industry, with financial support from BP, Airbus/EADS, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, AgChem Access, Oxford Instruments, IBMS and GE Hitachi.