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IOP Ireland Earnshaw Award

We are now accepting nominations for the prize that recognises achievement in physics among undergraduates in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The IOP Ireland Earnshaw Award recognises student achievement in undergraduate studies at the physics degree-awarding institutions across Ireland and Northern Ireland. The recipient is presented with an IOP silver medal and an award certificate.

The IOP Awards celebrate excellence in physics. We know that excellence is everywhere. We believe in rewarding students for passion and innovation early in their academic career, to encourage them to continue their work through employment or postgraduate study with physics.

About John Earnshaw

Professor John Earnshaw was born in Edinburgh on Christmas Day 1944 but was brought up in the north of England and obtained both his BSc and PhD from Durham University. He would later become professor of physics and head of the Plasma and Laser Interaction Physics Division at Queen’s University Belfast.

His contribution to Irish science was acknowledged when he was elected a member of the Royal lrish Academy, and, at the time of his death, he was president of the European Colloid and Interface Society.

Eligibility criteria

  • nominees should be a final-year undergraduate student studying in a degree-awarding institution in Ireland or Northern Ireland;
  • nominees should be studying for a degree with ‘physics’ in the degree title and undertaking a physics-based project (in any area of physics, including astrophysics, geophysics, theoretical physics, etc.);
  • any student projects submitted should have received, or be expected to receive, an A grade, or a second-class honours grade 1 (2.1) degree, or equivalent. Please read the FAQs for further details;
  • the award is open for nomination by representatives from physics degree-awarding institutions only;
  • nominees and nominators do not need to be members of the IOP;
  • nominators cannot be current members of IOP Council, IOP employees, people under contract to the IOP, or members of any IOP Awards judging panel; and
  • we do not accept self-nominations for the Earnshaw Award.

Submission process

Each institution may submit one nomination from their final-year undergraduate student cohort via the application form.

This will include:

  • nominator details;
  • nominee details (nominators should inform the nominee that their work is being put forward for consideration for the award. Nominators will be required to provide nominee contact details and to let them know that they will be contacted following submission to complete an optional equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) monitoring form);
  • project details;
  • an abstract (200 words);
  • the undergraduate student project (nominators are asked to remove identifying details from the student report such as student name, third-level institution and logos etc., where possible, to assist our endeavor to remove unconscious bias from the judging process. Attachments must be submitted in PDF format); and
  • assessor details (nominators are also requested to provide details of an ‘assessor’ from their institution, who will be invited to judge submissions).

2024 nominations

Nominations close on Friday 21 June 2024, 5.00pm IST (Irish standard time).

Judging process

Assessors will receive the project title, abstract and the student project for their review. All student reports are assessed using the following set of marking criteria:

Abstract and introduction/background
(Coverage of relevant theory/techniques/applications)
x 1.5
Project work undertaken 
(Coverage of experimental work/theoretical models/mathematical/computational)
x 2.5
Analysis/interpretationx 2.5
Discussion/conclusionsx 1.5
Presentation of written report
x 2

As part of our endeavour to remove unconscious bias from the judging process, projects will be judged blind where possible and nominators are asked to remove identifying details from the student report such as student name, third-level institution and logos.

There are two rounds of judging:

i. In the first round of judging, each submission is reviewed by three separate assessors from third-level institutions. Scores are calculated with the category weighting (see above) and collated to establish the top-three-rated projects.

ii. The three reports that emerge with the highest scores proceed to the second and final round of judging by an independent assessor (a person not involved with the participating colleges) to determine the final winner. Judges may provide a comment which can be shared with students, however, we will not be providing detailed feedback given that these project reports have already been extensively assessed and feedback has been provided in students’ home institution.

Award presentation

We will announce the winner of the Earnshaw Award in the autumn. We normally celebrate this extraordinary achievement as part of the annual IOP Ireland Winter Reception and Awards Presentation in December, when the winner is presented with the Earnshaw medal and award certificate.

Previous winners

  • 2023: Leo Mulholland, Quantum Scattering in a Spherically Symmetric Potential, Queen’s University Belfast
  • 2022: Thomas Long, Type III Solar Radio Bursts and Associated X-ray Emission, Trinity College Dublin
  • 2021: Maxime Gadioux, Tidal Disruption Near Supermassive Black Holes, University College Dublin
  • 2020: Matthew Birney, Gas Density and Velocity Analysis of the Dumbbell Planetary Nebula, Maynooth University
  • 2019: Danyaal Anjum, The Kinematics and Physical Properties of the Jet from DG Tauri, Maynooth University


What is an undergraduate student?

An undergraduate student refers to an individual studying full time for a bachelor’s degree or an integrated undergraduate master’s degree.

What degree programmes are eligible?

All undergraduate physics degree programmes are eligible. ‘Physics’ must appear in the degree title.

How many recipients can win the award?

The award is given to one individual per year.

What type of student projects are eligible?

We accept student projects on the condition that the student is studying for a degree with ‘physics’ in the degree title and the project undertaken is a physics-based project.

What are the grade requirements for student submissions?

Coursework submitted must have received an A grade, a second-class honours grade 1 (2.1), or equivalent. Students who have not received their grade before the deadline may still be nominated if they received a 2.1 or higher overall grade for their most recently completed academic year. If necessary, you can submit to the IOP with a ‘predicted grade’, that is, the grade you expect the student to receive based on your marker’s comments or past coursework.

Can I submit a paper/project written in a language other than English?

Unfortunately, at the current time, the IOP only accepts submissions in English. However, we would encourage students who have completed work in a language other than English to translate essays into English and submit the translated paper/project. You are free to seek any guidance necessary during this translation process.

If you have any additional queries, please contact [email protected].