IOP member is Quantum Zone winner in I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here

12 July 2013

IOP member Dave Farmer is the latest winner of the Quantum Zone in the “I’m a Scientist – Get Me Out of Here” competition.

IOP member is Quantum Zone winner in I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here

With four other scientists in his zone he answered online questions from school students over a fortnight in June and survived an X-Factor style process of evictions to emerge as the students’ choice as the best scientist in the Quantum Zone.

Participants in the zone engaged in live chats with the scientists and asked questions about physical phenomena, such as “how does the magnetosphere protect us from the solar wind?” and “what is the speed of gravity?”, as well as career-related topics such as “what inspired you to be a scientist?” and “what type of mathematics should I master in order to become a theoretical physicist?”. The questions in the Quantum Zone came from students at schools that are involved in the Stimulating Physics Network and from IOP 16-19 members.

The overall competition is sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and is aimed at engaging school students in science, particularly those in Years 8 and 9. There were 18 zones in the June round of the competition, each with five scientists answering questions. Other IOP members in the Quantum Zone were PhD students Jack Miller, Fiona Coomer and Chris Mansell. The IOP also sponsored the Earth Zone, which was won by electronics engineer Simon Holyoake.

Each scientist who wins in a zone receives £500 to spend on science communication. Farmer, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham, says he will spend the money on creating a series of YouTube videos to explain areas of GCSE and A-level physics in greater depth. His own studies include high frequency vibrations in polymers and the elastic properties of soft matter. After winning, he said: “I’m genuinely surprised that I won. I came into the event just wanting to have fun and to see how far I got. I’m honestly amazed at the standard of questions we were asked. Quantum physics is not an easy topic to wrap your head around.

“It was also really good to be forced to take stock of my work and figure out what it is specifically that I love so much, and what I’m most proud of. I’m at a stage of my career where I have lots of big decisions coming up about what to do next.”

The next competition will be in November 2013. Visit for details.