News - 17/10/2011

Oxford research fellow takes Silver for science in Parliament

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Dr Jesse Petersen, 33, a research fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, hailing from Vancouver, won Silver at a competition in the House of Commons for the excellence of his scientific research last week.

Jesse presented his physics research to more than one hundred politicians and a panel of expert judges, as part of SET for Britain, on Monday 14 March.

The research, which shows how Jesse made movies of the electronic structure of materials as they transform from insulating materials into metals using ultra-short laser pulses, was judged against 29 other shortlisted physicists work.

On Jesses work, judge Professor Janice Barton from the University of Southampton commented Jesse has developed a highly novel research tool based on fast imaging to obtain details of material structure. He is a committed researcher and his enthusiasm for this research shone through to the judges and MPs.

Jesse said, Im tremendously pleased to have won the prize. I really enjoyed the event itself – it was great to meet passionate young scientists from across the country, and to see what exciting work people were doing in such diverse fields.

SET for Britain is a competition in the House of Commons which involves researchers displaying posters of their work to panels of expert judges and more than 100 MPs.

On the event, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of the Institute of Physics, said, Its never been so important that politicians have a solid grasp of physics, and thats why SET for Britain is such a valuable event.  Advances in physics underpin our daily existence, from the physics in the GPS we use to drive to work to the physics behind the electricity which powers our homes.  All of the presenters here today deserve our praise and admiration for tackling such worthy work.

The event aims to help politicians understand more about the UK’s thriving science base and rewards some of the strongest scientific research being undertaken in the UK.

Professor Brian Cox, TV star physicist, who visited the event to meet the researchers and present the Westminster Medal, awarded to the overall winner, said, “It’s been amazing to see the range of work on display, you can’t help but feel assured that science and engineering are going to provide answers to the UK’s most pressing concerns, from climate change to cyber security.

Most importantly of all, these young researchers will continue to explore nature. Driven by their curiosity and skill, who knows what they will discover?

Politicians take note; the researchers here today are this country’s future. It is your job to ensure that Britain is the best place in the world for them to continue their research.

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee ran the event in collaboration with The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Institute of Physics, the Society of Biology, The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Society of Chemical Industry, with financial support from BP, E.ON, plantimpact, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, International Agri-Technology Centre Ltd, AgChem Access, Eli Lilly and Oxford Instruments. 

1.  Contact
For further information about the event, images, or interview opportunities, please contact Joe Winters:
Tel: 020 7470 4815
Mob: 07946 321473
E-mail: joseph.winters@iop.org

2.  SET for Britain
SET for Britain is a poster competition in the House of Commons - involving 180 early stage or early career researchers - judged by professional and academic experts.  All presenters are entered into either the engineering; the biological and biomedical sciences; the physical sciences (chemistry); or the physical sciences (physics) session, depending on their specialism. 

Each session will result in the reward of Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates.  Bronze winners will receive a £1,000 prize; Silver, £2,000; and Gold, £3,000.  There will also be an overall winner from the four sessions who will receive the Westminster Wharton Medal.

SET for Britain was established by Dr Eric Wharton in 1997.  Following his untimely death in 2007, the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, with support from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Physics, the Society of Biology, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Society of Chemical Industry are working together to further his legacy. 

The event is made possible by industry sponsors BP, E.ON, plantimpact, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, International Agri-Technology Centre Ltd, AgChem Access, Eli Lilly and Oxford Instruments.

Early stage or early career researchers include university research students, postgraduates, research assistants, postdocs, research fellows, newly-appointed lecturers, part-time and mature students, returners, those people embarking on a second career, and their equivalent in national, public sector and industrial laboratories, and appropriate final year undergraduate and MSc students, all of whom are engaged in scientific, engineering, technological or medical research.

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