Shedding Light on the Universe at IOPI Spring Meeting

2 April 2015

IOP Ireland moved south to Cork for its annual Spring Meeting. With 2015 being the International Year of Light the event’s theme was ‘Shedding Light on the Universe’.


Spring meeting

The meeting kicked off with Prof. Sir Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University speaking on Lighting the Future – a fascinating talk on LEDs which emphasized not only the economic and environmental benefits of next generation LED lighting but also the health benefits from the use of gallium nitride in LEDs. Colin discussed the potentials for reduction in cancers and even possible improvement in exam performance with their use. Interest in the topic was especially high given the 2014 Physics Nobel Award to three Japanese scientists for work in this area.

Spring meeting
Kevin McGuigan

Prof Kevin McGuigan of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland further developed the health theme with his talk – Saving lives with Sunlight which looked at his work over the past two decades on solar disinfection of water which is now used throughout East Africa as a point-of-use water treatment.

Moving away from our world, Dr Chris Watson of Queen’s University Belfast took the group on a whirlwind tour to unearth new worlds with his talk on recent discoveries of exoplanets with up-to-the minute data on some of the most interesting planets, which have been uncovered, and discussion on the next missions on the horizon.

Lights Camera Images

Sue McGrath of Science 2 Life and IOP Ireland teacher network coordinator had the meeting participants having over an hour of physics fun with her workshop on Light Camera Images with plenty of takeaways for all.

Rosse Medal Competition

A key part of the event was the Rosse Medal Competition for postgraduate students for physics communication. The 36 entrants presented posters earlier in the day to the judging panel leading to six finalists giving 5-minute presentations to the full audience on their work.  The finalists were:

Lisa Marie Browne, NUI Galway
Niall Hore, University of Limerick
Eimante Kalinauskaite Maynooth University
Muhammad Uma Khan, Tyndall National Institute
Claire McDaniel, NUI Galway
Aimee Stapleton, University of Limerick

Blackrock Castle Observatory

Spring meeting
Group visit to Blackrock Castle Observatory

Capping off the afternoon was a visit to Blackrock Castle Observatory where the group had a behind the scenes tour which included both the Castle’s telescopes, instruments and their highly entertaining public displays.



The event closed with dinner and the presentation of a number of awards. Each year the Institute of Physics makes an award to the top Leaving Certificate physics student. This year four students shared the top place. 

Spring meeting
Ciaran Hurley receiving his award

One of the students, Ciarán Hurley of St Francis Cappuchin College Rochestown, Cork was presented with his award at the dinner. (The other three students previously received their awards at the IOPI Christmas Reception). Ciarán was joined at the event by his parents and former physics teacher, John O’Donovan. Ciaran, who received his award from IOP Ireland Chair, Dr. Peter van der Burgt, is now studying medicine at University College Cork.

Spring meeting
Eoin Murray with Peter van der Burgt

UCC took the honours again with the Earnshaw Award which is given for the best final year undergraduate project. Eoin Murray was awarded the prize for his project on ‘Photon emission processes from site controlled quantum dots’. He was joined at the event by family and friends and his project supervisor, Dr Emanuele Pelucchi of the Tyndall National Institute and UCC. Eoin is continuing his studies in the area of quantum photonics at Cambridge University.

Spring meeting
Aimee Stapleton with Johanna Kieniewicz

The final award of the evening, the Rosse Medal, went to Aimee Stapleton of University of Limerick for her presentation on Piezoelectricity in Proteins: The Missing Link. Aimee received her award from Dr Johanna Kieniewicz, IOP’s head of Outreach and Engagement who noted the very high standard of the participants and in particular the strong competition from all the finalists.

Looking forward to 2016

The organizers look forward to welcoming members and friends to next year’s Spring Meeting which is being planned for Belfast to run alongside the second annual NI Science Festival with a likely theme of quantum photonics, in celebration of one of Belfast’s most distinguished scientists, John Stewart Bell.

Image credits: Peter van der Burgt

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