Philip Moriarty is a winner in I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here contest

26 March 2015

Prof. Philip Moriarty has been voted the winner of the IOP-sponsored Terbium Zone in the I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here contest.

In the online competition, scientists answer questions from school students and engage in live text chats over a two-week period. During X-Factor styled knock-out rounds, students vote for scientists to be eliminated until there is one winner remaining out of the five contestants in each zone.

Prof. Philip Moriarty

There were 14 zones in the latest competition, which ran from 9-20 March, with the IOP sponsoring the Terbium Zone and jointly sponsoring the Medical Physics Zone with the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM). In the girls-only Terbium Zone, 326 students were talking to scientists, 171 questions were answered and there were 20 chats. All the schools taking part in the Terbium Zone were Partner Schools in the IOP’s Improving Gender Balance (IGB) project, which is funded by the DfE.

IOP member Prof. Moriarty is a professor of physics at the University of Nottingham, where he manages a research group that focuses on imaging and controlling individual atoms, molecules and chemical bonds. The prize for the winner in each zone is £500 to spend on a science communication project. Before the start of the competition Prof. Moriarty said that if he won he would put the money towards funding the development of a computer game based on the group’s research, or a video for a physics-inspired rock song.

After emerging as the winner, he said: “I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here. It’s a fantastic forum for connecting with schools and I was blown away both by the enthusiasm of the students who participated and the very perceptive questions that many of them asked. Indeed, some of the questions were significantly more challenging (and often more interesting!) than those I typically get asked at research conferences. I would recommend the competition to all physicists, regardless of career level – it’s a great experience.”

The winner in the Medical Physics Zone was Glafkos Havariyoun, a trainee clinical scientist with the King’s College Hospital NHS Trust. Havariyoun, who intends to use the prize money to explain to children what scanners do, said he was thrilled to have won in the zone. “The competition was great fun and it was brilliant to interact with the students to help them understand how science is vital in hospitals and patient care. Thank you everyone who took part in the event,” he said.

A spokesperson for IPEM said: “This is the second time IPEM has sponsored the Medical Physics Zone jointly with the IOP and we are delighted that it has been so popular. The event encourages children to get involved in science and it worked - 488 students asked 220 questions over two weeks with many fast-paced online text-based live chats.”

Natasha Plaister, the IOP’s project coordinator for the IGB project, said: “The IGB project was thrilled to be able to sponsor the first ever girls-only zone of I’m a Scientist. The students who took part had a fantastic opportunity to get to know the scientists on the panel, and to find out a bit about what their life and careers are really like. We’ll also be using data collected during the event to compare the impact on students in mixed and single-sex groups.”