News - 17/10/2011

Oxford researcher takes Bronze for physics in Parliament

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Katerina Falk, 27, a researcher at the University of Oxford, a member of Merton College, hailing from the Czech Republic, won Bronze at a competition in the House of Commons for the excellence of her scientific research last week.

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

Her research, which helps model the internal structure of large gaseous planets like Jupiter, was judged against 29 other shortlisted physicists work from across the country.

On Katerinas work, judge Professor James Hough from Hertfordshire University, said, Using sophisticated experimental techniques Katerina Falk has made significant progress in understanding the properties of hydrogen and its isotopes under extreme pressure conditions.  

Although her primary interest is using these studies to understand the interior structures of the solar system gas giants, such as Jupiter, her work is potentially very important in inertial fusion experiments.  

Such work could lead to a sustainable energy source without the problems associated with nuclear fission.  Throughout the evening Katerina was able to explain her work with clarity and obvious enthusiasm.

Katerina, who plans to use the £1,000 prize to take a road trip across Britain, said, The event was just wonderful and I met lots of very interesting people. The prize itself was a very nice surprise.

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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