Sensing the Universe

17 May 2018

IOP Ireland’s annual Spring Meeting finally got underway in Limerick in May having been postponed from its traditional weekend in March due to Storm Emma.

Despite this change over 80 converged on the Strand Hotel for the event which was steered by the University of Limerick taking the theme, Sensing the Universe. Talks included  ‘Adventures in the outer solar system’ from Dr Caitriona Jackman of the University of Portsmouth. Caitriona, a graduate of UL discussed  findings from the missions of Gallileo to Jupiter and Cassini at Saturn. The astronomical link continued with Prof. Andy Shearer of NUI Galway talking about opportunities for astronomy and business in Ireland given the recent government decision to join the European Southern Observatory. Dr Yvonne Kavanagh presented recent research on the success of women in physics in Ireland, drawing on her presentations at a number of conferences in this area. The formal presentations finished on a less than formal note with Dr. Jessamyn Fairfield speaking about what physics can learn from comedy.
Alongside the talks Dr Nicolas Bonne from the University of Portsmouth exhibited work from the Tactile Universe. This project is working to engage the blind and visually impaired community with physics research using 3-D printed tactile images of galaxies.
Exhibitors at the event also included Blackrock Castel Observatory with information on their outreach astronomy programme in association with the ESERO, the European Space Education and Resource Office.

An integral part of the event was the Rosse  Medal competition for physics postgraduate communications. The medal commemorates the 3rd Earl of Rosse (Sir William Parsons KP, FRS) and his contributions to science. With 33 poster entries the competition was stiff. Five students got through to the second round to give short presentations on their work. The finalists were:
Niamh Fitzgerald, NUI Galway
Alex Lonergan, University College Cork
Julianne Kealy, Maynooth University
Aisling Murphy,  Maynooth University
Eileen Courtney, University of Limerick
Eileen was declared the winner of the Rosse Medal with her poster entitled:
Interaction between 2D transition metal dichalcogenides and metal atoms investigated via atomic resolution HAADF Scanning Transition Electron Microscopy
Alex Lonergan was the runner up with his work on:
Rethinking How Inverse Opal Photonic Crystals Control the Flow of Light

Both Eileen and Alex have been invited to take part in the IOP UK and Ireland wide 3 Minute Wonder Competition on 22 May in the Royal Institute in London.
An additional competition was included in the Spring Meeting – best physics image, which was won by Sarah Guerin of the University of Limerick with her image – Glycine Spider Web.

Eileen Courtney, winner of the Rosse Medal, with Paul Hardaker, CEO, Institute of Physics
Photo by Dr Peter van der Burgt, Maynooth University