IOP president hails exhilarating time in physics in Awards Dinner speech

6 November 2015

Exciting developments in physics make this “an exhilarating time to be a physicist”, the IOP’s president, Professor Roy Sambles, said at the Institute’s annual Awards Dinner yesterday, but warned that future groundbreaking work depends on attracting fresh talent into physics.

Roy Sambles

Speaking to an audience gathered to see IOP awards presented to outstanding individuals and organisations, he said: “The kind of world-changing work that we’re here to celebrate tonight can only continue if we have enough bright people undertaking frontier physics research. This in turn needs a supply of dedicated teachers to inspire them.

“Encouraging more girls to study physics, particularly coming from mixed-sex schools, is a constant concern. Between our Girls in Physics work, the Stimulating Physics Network, teacher training scholarships and more, the IOP does a great deal to try to address this issue, and although things are improving, more needs to be done.”

However, the IOP did very much more than address this one issue, Sambles said, and he thanked Dr Frances Saunders, president of the Institute for the previous two years, its chief executive, Professor Paul Hardaker, and all the staff for the “enormous effort they have put in”.

He also thanked the award winners and those associated with their work for their continuing efforts to maintain the UK’s excellence in physics. “Although we make up less than 1% of the world’s population, the UK contributes almost 16% of the most highly cited research papers. We’ve kept up that position despite increasing competition from emerging economies such as Brazil and China,” he said.

“In addition, we can all see how the continuing evolution of physics research leads to advances in the commercial world. According to the last IOP economy report, physics-based businesses account for as much as 8.5% of the UK’s economic output and employ more than a million people.”

Sambles presented Innovation Awards to five such physics-based companies at the dinner, as well as presenting awards to physicists for research, education and outreach, to outstanding teachers of physics, and to individuals for service to the IOP. Four winners of International Bilateral Awards, who had received their awards on other occasions, were also recognised at the event.

Six honorary fellowships of the IOP were conferred and there were awards for companies exemplifying best practice in professional development and for three university departments (at University College London, Queen Mary University of London, and Queen’s University Belfast) that are the latest to have achieved Juno Champion status in Project Juno, which addresses under-representation of women in higher-education physics.

The event in London included a performance to celebrate the International Year of Light.

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