President of Ireland addresses physicists

19 April 2011

Physics was literally close to home for The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, as she addressed the Institute of Physics in Ireland’s 40th Spring Weekend meeting on 16 April 2011 in the Four Seasons Hotel in Carlingford, across the water from her home town of Rostrevor.

Mary McAleese and Tony Scott

In an inspirational speech (MP3, 26 MB) the President emphasized the key role of physics in society and the need for physicists to convey their passion for the subject. 

One of Ireland’s most distinguished physicists and honorary IOP Fellow, Tony Scott, presented the President with ‘Lab Coats and Lace’, a book of Irish women scientists. 

President McAleese then spent some time meeting many of the attendees individually.

‘We need to talk about physics’ was the title of the meeting. 

The family friendly event took a broad look at issues in physics across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

It combined academic talks and workshops such as ‘Physics on the go’ which showed how an iPod can be used as a pocket laboratory, given by Apple distinguished educator, Paul Dolk.

Almost 40 students took part in the Rosse Medal postgraduate poster competition, which this year was won by Dermot Green of QUB. 

Second place was awarded to TCD’s Roseanne Riley while Robert Dixon of NUI Maynooth took third place. 

The medal commemorates the 3rd Earl of Rosse, Sir William Parsons, Irish astronomer and builder of the largest reflecting telescope, the “Leviathan,” of the 19th century, in Birr Co. Offaly.

The meeting kicked off with Helen Keen’s BBC Radio comedy show, ‘It is Rocket Science’ and ended with competitive rocket launches and dragster races. 

Co-ordinated by the IOP’s three N. Ireland teacher network co-ordinators, Sue McGrath, Sandra O’Connell and Leanne Hawthorn.

Interspersed through the event were talks from Prof. Sir Bill Wakeham on the South East Physics Network, Roisin Cheshire on North-South SFI initiatives, well-known Belfast industrialist, Hugh Cormican, on STEM issues in Northern Ireland, BBC’s Mike McKimm on science and the media and Ian Williams of QUB on attracting and retaining physics students. 

The meeting posed strong questions on issues ranging from physics policy at government level in relation to funding to the art of science communication.

The 2010 Earnshaw medal for best final year undergraduate project was presented to Eileen Armstrong of the University of Limerick.

A very warm tribute was made to Peter van der Burgt when he was presented with the 2010 IOP Chairs of Branches award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Institution through his many years of voluntary service.

On Sunday morning, following the presentation of the IOPI Annual Report by outgoing chair, Robert Bowman, Tony Scott was this year’s Physicist in the chair. 

In a highly entertaining interview TCD’s Iggy McGovern, drew forth a fund of tales from Tony, illustrating the very human side of education, research and industrial physics.