PhD student wins Three Minute Wonder contest with talk on printing jelly

25 May 2018

PhD student Kate Oliver won the grand final of our Three Minute Wonder (3MW) science communication challenge on 22 May with a talk on 3D printing of jelly.

PhD student wins Three Minute Wonder contest with talk on printing jelly

Kate, who is in the final year of her PhD at the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, described how her research includes printing soft materials that can change shape, producing jelly-like objects that can shrink on heating, for example. “Jelly is wobbly like we are wobbly,” she said, explaining that this is important for making prosthetics that work well with the human body.

Speaking after competing with 11 other finalists in the event at the Royal Institution (RI), she said: “I am really overwhelmed as I realised how intense this would be. I have done a lot of performance before, but being judged makes it more intimidating.”

PhD student wins Three Minute Wonder contest with talk on printing jelly

The runner-up was Eileen Courtney, who also received a prize for attracting the highest audience vote. Eileen, who is a second-year PhD student at TEMUL, University of Limerick, and was the winner for Ireland, spoke on 2D Materials and Metal: a Necessary Combination. She said afterwards: “I’m shocked as I didn’t expect to come over and actually win anything. I was just hoping to come and see some of the physics being done elsewhere.”

The competition, which is open to early-career researchers in the UK and Ireland, is for contestants to communicate their research in three minutes in a way that will appeal to a general audience. All the finalists were winners or runners-up in regional and national heats that have been taking place in late-2017 and early-2018 in England, Scotland and Wales, with the winner of IOP Ireland’s Rosse Medal this year being deemed the winner for Ireland.

The judging panel was headed by materials scientist Professor Mark Miodownik, who is also an author and broadcaster and presented the 2010 Christmas Lectures at the RI. He was joined by Dr Lindsay Keith, a research fellow at the University of Greenwich whose public engagement work has included immersive sci-fi scenarios; Dr Chris North, Ogden Science Lecturer at Cardiff University and former Sky at Night presenter; Wendy Sadler, lecturer at Cardiff University, STEM communicator and founder of Science Made Simple; and science communicator and presenter Fran Scott, who is the RI’s Science Content Producer.

PhD student wins Three Minute Wonder contest with talk on printing jelly

Mark Miodownik presented perspex trophies to Kate and Eileen, with a £500 cheque for Kate and a £250 cheque for Eileen. The other finalists were: Hajime Shinohara (East Anglia), Kirsty Taggart (Merseyside), Alex Lonergan (Ireland) , Chris Bloomer (London and South East), Lama Hamadeh (East Midlands) , Hannah Sargeant (London and South East), Andrew Edwards (East Midlands), Callum Hill (Scotland), Alison Young (Wales and South West), and Tomi Baikie (East Anglia).

Our Chief Executive, Professor Paul Hardaker thanked the judges, who had all been big supporters of IOP’s work over many years, he said, the organisers of the national and regional heats and Dr Mark Telling, IOP’s Vice President for Membership, who was the overall organiser and acted as compère for the evening. “It was terrific to see the diversity, breadth and depth of physics on display and more importantly, to see a bunch of physicists just setting out on their careers give such wonderful presentations. It’s great to see that physics is in such safe hands,” he said.

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