President hails landmarks in physics at Awards Dinner and gives medal to John Dudley

30 November 2016

The Institute’s award winners should be congratulated for “continuing to push the boundaries of what we know about the universe, for applying that knowledge to solve the problems of our age, and for helping to inspire the next generation of physicists”, IOP president Professor Roy Sambles said in an address at the IOP’s annual Awards Dinner on 29 November.

President hails landmarks in physics at Awards Dinner and gives medal to John Dudley

Speaking to an audience of award winners, guests and friends of the IOP at the Lancaster Hotel in London, he highlighted recent achievements in physics, including the discovery of gravitational waves, a planet in the habitable zone of our nearest star and a particle made up of four different flavours of quarks.

Physicists had also accidentally discovered p-waves interacting in ultracold atoms, improved the efficiency of single-photon sources and broken records for quantum cryptography and for laser-electron interactions, with potential applications in producing faster and smaller computer chips. These and the award of the Nobel Prize to three British physicists were achievements over the last year “to inspire us all”, he said.

The Institute had also been working hard for physics throughout 2016, he noted. The IOP had launched a new series of outdoor public lectures, stimulated academia-industry partnerships to solve challenges and drive innovation in food manufacturing and hosted two Nobel Prize winners at an international conference on neutrino physics.

On policy issues it had worked to ensure that physics played a part in discussions about the UK’s future relationship with the EU and made the case for physics ahead of national elections in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Thanking the IOP’s chief executive, Professor Paul Hardaker, and his staff, Sambles said this was just a snapshot of all that the Institute had done during the year.

Sambles went on to pay tribute to Sir Tom Kibble, winner of this year’s Isaac Newton Medal and Prize, who died in June. He was not only an eminent physicist but also a “humble, unassuming and much-liked human being”, he said. Presenting Kibble’s medal to his children Alison, Helen and Robert, he then led a toast to their late father.

President hails landmarks in physics at Awards Dinner and gives medal to John Dudley

As president, Sambles said, he had the privilege of awarding a President’s Medal once or twice during his term of office at his own discretion, and he had chosen Professor John Dudley of the Institut FEMTO-ST, CNRS-Université de Franche-Comté. Dudley, he said, had stood out “not so much for the physics he did but for the phenomenal effort he put into promoting worldwide public awareness of the importance of physics by initiating and driving the International Year of Light, a global year of science outreach, reaching millions of people in more than 100 countries”.

A former president of the IOP, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, was welcomed to the stage to present the new Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize. Formerly the Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year Award, the prize was renamed in honour of Bell Burnell this year and became one of the Institute’s bronze medals. It was presented to Dr Jess Wade, who came first in the finals of the prize on 9 November.

Sambles conferred six honorary fellowships, the IOP’s highest honour, and two A-level students – Sabah Hussein from Clapton Girls’ Academy and Benyam Dejen from Gunnersbury Catholic School – presented the IOP’s awards for Best Practice in Professional Development, Juno Champions, Teachers of Physics, Phillips Award, Innovation Awards and Commended Innovations. They also presented the Bragg Medal and Prize and the Kelvin Medal and Prize.

The remaining awards were presented by IOP staff members James Jackson-Ellis and Lara Maisey. During the presentations there were video messages congratulating the Early-Career Award winners, Dr Alexandra Olayo-Castro, Dr Jacopo Bertolotti and Professor Malte Gather, from Professor Art McDonald, Professor Anthony Leggett and Professor Steven Chu, respectively.

During the evening there were performances by laser violinist Lumina and LED entertainment company Feeding the Fish.