2013 in review

1 July 2014

As we approach the Institute’s Annual General Meeting for 2014, it seems appropriate to look back at some of the successes IOP had during 2013.

Watch IOP staff talk about their highlights of last year in the video below:

Headline projects show success

Girls in physics

The Institute's Closing Doors report, showing how the participation of girls in physics depends on the culture of the whole school, was launched in December with the help of Education Minister Elizabeth Truss.

The report analysed progression to A-level in six subjects with gender imbalances. It attracted significant media coverage – including an appearance on Radio 4’s Today programme.

Teacher recruitment

Applications for IOP’s teacher training scholarships rose to 663 in 2013 – up by 100 on the previous year. Of those applicants, 125 were offered places – 25 more than the target set by the Department for Education, which funds the scholarships – of which 102 were accepted.

The number of applications to the scholarships is roughly the same as the total number of applications to initial teacher training courses, suggesting they’re having a big effect on attracting into teaching graduates who otherwise might not have considered it as a career option.

Following its success in 2013, the scholarships programme received extra funding for the subsequent year, now offering 150 places worth £25,000 each.

A new home for physics

In October the Institute purchased a freehold property in the King's Cross area of London, close to the existing bases of the Guardian newspaper, the Crick Centre, and Macmillan publishers.

The move is aimed at guaranteeing a long-term home for the IOP, as well as being a solid financial asset. The Institute intends to make the new building into a real home for physics, both providing services to the physics community and showcasing the value of physics to the public.

Membership numbers soar

Eunice Wuraola Ojutalayo

During 2013 IOP grew to encompass more than 50,000 members, including 5000 from outside the UK and Ireland.

The 50,000th member to be admitted, Eunice Wuraola Ojutalayo, a student at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, was recognised at the Institute’s annual awards dinner in November.

New branches were established in Nigeria, in both Mumbai and Delhi in India, and in an area of the US covering Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

Prestigious lecturers speak at IOP

2013 saw several notable lecturers hold talks at the Institute.

Quantum physicist Prof. Sir Michael Berry explained in April that there are often surprising connections between different areas of physics and unexpected technological applications. One example given in his lecture, How quantum physics democratised music, was Einstein’s work on stimulated emission of radiation, which led to the invention of the laser, and in turn to the CD player.

Prof. Lee Smolin outlined a new model of the universe in May, in which the laws of physics can change and the cosmos is engaged in a kind of natural selection in which new universes are born from black holes.

In November, Manchester University’s Prof. Sir Konstantin Novoselov gave a talk on graphene, for work on which he and Prof. Sir Andre Geim were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics. Novoselov said that although the two-dimensional material has a wide range of potential uses in electronic devices, biological applications would be where graphene really proves most useful.

IOPE breaks revenue record

IOP Enterprises, the trading subsidiary that runs the Institute’s conference centre, broke its record for revenue from the venue during 2013. IOPE’s proceeds are returned to the Institute as gift aid to support its work for the physics community.

Particular highlights from the year include:

  • Molecular menus
  • The ‘Real Food’ campaign – using local, seasonal food.
  • The venue received the silver award from Green Business Tourism. Green Tourism for London is the first independently audited green accreditation scheme for the meeting industry in the city.

International conferences secured

The Institute made successful bids for several international conferences during 2013.

The 9th International Workshop on Neutrino-Nucleus Interactions in the Few-Ge region was held in May 2014, the 28th Nuclear Physics Division Conference will take place in 2015, and the 27th International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics in 2016.

Applications were also initiated for a further three international conferences.

Affiliated schools reach record number

The Institute offers an affiliation scheme for schools and colleges in the UK and Ireland, through which they receive a variety of benefits for a nominal annual fee. During 2013, the number of affiliated schools hit a record number, passing 1800 for the first time.

Business secretary presents Innovation Awards

The Secretary of State for Business and Innovation, Vince Cable, presented the IOP’s annual Innovation Awards at a reception in the House of Commons in November, celebrating physics as a “key discipline” that is “at the root of innovation”.

The awards went to Coherent Scotland Ltd, which has developed an ultrafast laser system for medical imaging; Tracerco Ltd, which has produced a leading gamma radiation-based tool for pipe measurement in the oil and gas industry; Zephir Ltd, which has designed a portable Light Detection and Ranging device that can assess a site’s suitability for a wind farm; Elekta Ltd, which has produced a beam-shaping device for targeted radiotherapy; and Simpleware Ltd, which has developed a software solution that converts 3D images into high-quality computer models.

Fundraising campaign begins

Brian Cox cheers on the IOP’s fundraising campaign

The Institute’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, aimed at raising £10 m to support its work over the next five years, launched in September.

Prof. Brian Cox and Prof. Jim Al-Khalili headlined the launch dinner, which was attended by around 100 people, and video messages of support were also left from Nobel Prize winner Prof. Sir Konstantin Novoselov, rock musician and astrophysicist Brian May and soft-matter physicist Prof. Dame Athene Donald.

A significant pledge towards the Institute’s work on girls in physics has already been received.

IOP recognised with awards

The Institute’s Physics Lives series of video resources, which aims to give students a glimpse into the real lives of physics researchers, won a British Universities Film and Video Council Learning on Screen Award in April.

The Learning on Screen Awards are aimed at rewarding excellence in the use of moving image in learning, teaching and research, and 2013 was the second consecutive year that IOP won.

The Institute’s diversity work was also shortlisted for a WISE award, aimed at recognising the successes of women in STEM.

Case studies launched in parliament

A series of case studies, Physics: Transforming Lives was launched at a well-attended event held in Parliament in June.

The 11 examples show how physics research has already impacted our lives and how it's likely to do so in the future, such as in innovations in cancer treatment. The case studies form part of the Institute's work in demonstrating the value of physics to the public.

Art project smashes attendance target

A piece of art resulting from a collaboration between particle physicist Ben Still and artist Lyndall Phelps opened to the public at the London Canal Museum in August.

The chandelier-like installation, Covariance, was inspired by the Super-Kamiokande particle detector and housed in the museum's ice wells. It was produced as part of the Institute's Superposition programme, aimed at bringing together scientists and artists to jointly engage the general public.

Covariance easily broke its attendance target, ultimately receiving visits from almost 2000 people during the six weeks it was open.

Student becomes teacher at entrepreneurship workshop

As part of the Physics for Development programme, the Institute and other organisations hold regular workshops on entrepreneurship for scientists and engineers for developing countries.

The workshop held in Durban, South Africa, in August was particularly notable since some of the speakers there were previous attendees at a workshop held in Cape Town in 2009, who had since used the knowledge they’d acquired to start their own spin-out companies.

Members continue to engage through Branch and Group events

The Institute is ultimately made up of its members, on whose behalf all of its work is carried out and who take part in a range of activity in support of physics, particularly through IOP groups and branches.

Branch highlights from 2013 include:

  • The East Midlands Branch sponsored a student, Nathan Brackenbury, to attend the UK Astrobiology Academy, a NASA-affiliated residential course for 16- to 18-year-olds based at the University of Edinburgh, at which participants compete for a six-week placement at NASA’s Ames Research Centre.
  • The East Anglia Branch held a three-day event, “Physics at Work”, together with the University of Cambridge, aimed at stimulating interest and encouraging wider participation in physics among 14- to 16-year-olds by showcasing the many and varied ways in which physics is used in the real world. The event attracted companies and schools from across the UK.
  • As part of the Manchester Science Festival, the Manchester Branch hosted a performance of musical comedy Albert Einstein – Relativitively Speaking.
  • A public lecture was given at the University of Leeds from Nigel Macknight, who is aiming to set a new water-speed record.
  • IOP’s South Central Branch and the University of Surrey’s physics society took a group of 18 students to visit the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
  • Physics in the Field events took place in 28 different venues during 2013, taking physics demonstrations to outdoor festivals and helping to engage an audience that doesn't typically encounter the discipline. More than 26,000 people were reached through these events, and this was made possible by more than 250 branch volunteers.

Group highlights include:

  • One of the larger meetings in 2013 was the biennial EMAG conference, organised by the Electron Microscopy and Analysis Group and held at the University of York. The four-day event was attended by more than 180 people and featured opportunities for young researchers to present their work through both symposia and poster sessions. There was once again a large trade exhibition to showcase developments in microscopy and nanotechnology, and there was a special symposium marking the 80th birthday of Prof. Archie Howie and focusing on in-situ microscopy.
  • The Plasma Physics Group continued its Spring Conference series, organising its 40th meeting, also in York, which was attended by more than 100 people. Invited speakers included Clive Challis and Prof. Timo Gans, as well as the winner of the Culham Thesis Prize, Charlotte Palmer. The conference also had a comprehensive social programme including the dinner held at the National Railway Museum
  • The Higher Education Group continued its ‘Teaching of…’ series of workshops this year with a meeting on the teaching of environmental physics, organised jointly with the IOP Environmental Physics Group and supported by the Higher Education Academy. The meeting focused on ways to include environmental physics into degree programmes, with teaching staff from institutions in the UK and the US sharing practical examples and experiences of teaching environmental physics to help promote good practice of teaching in this area.
  • The Nuclear Industry Group hosted an evening lecture titled ‘PRISM reactor – Generating low-carbon electricity from the UK’s plutonium stockpile’, given by David Powell, a vice-president at GE Hitachi. The event proved to be so popular that the lecture, originally given in London, was repeated a few months later in Warrington.

Related information

IOP Annual Report and Accounts 2013

The annual report explains the aims and objectives set by the Institute, and the strategies and activities undertaken to achieve them.

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