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Diversity marks Institute of Physics awards dinner

Thumbs up - IOP president Roy Sambles at the IOP awards dinner in London on 29 November 2016

Thumbs up – Institute of Physics president Roy Sambles at the 2016 annual awards ceremony

By Matin Durrani

With the winter sun dipping over the horizon late on Tuesday afternoon, I caught the train from Bristol up to London to attend the annual awards dinner of the Institute of Physics (IOP), which publishes Physics World.

The event was held at the Lancaster London hotel a few minutes’ walk from Paddington station. Now, I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, but I found myself seated at dinner next to Farideh Honary, a space physicist from Lancaster University.

Among her many activities, Honary sits on the IOP’s Juno panel, which aims to “recognise and reward departments that can demonstrate they have taken action to address the under-representation of women in university physics and to encourage better practice for both women and men”.

Last night’s dinner saw “Juno Champion” awards being given to three UK university departments (Manchester, Open and Oxford) for having made a “substantial contribution” to the project’s aims. In the year that saw Physics World publish a special issue on diversity in physics, I think I appreciate more than ever why Juno is such a good initiative. You can find out more about the Juno principles here.

One female physicist who has done much to encourage diversity in physics is Jocelyn Bell Burnell. She was present on Tuesday night to give the inaugural Jocelyn Bell Burnell medal and prize to Jessica Wade of Imperial College London – one of four “early career awards” the IOP hands out.

Other IOP awards were given to top research physicists, school teachers and scientists working in industry. There were also video messages for three of the awards from Nobel-prize-winning physicists Steven Chu, Anthony Leggett and Art McDonald.

There were some moving words too from the IOP president Roy Sambles in honour of the late Sir Tom Kibble. He died earlier this year shortly after being named as the winner of the IOP’s top award – the Isaac Newton medal – for his work on symmetry breaking in quantum field theory. Sambles presented the award to Kibble’s three children.

The Isaac Newton lecture, usually given by the winner of the award, was given instead by Kellogg Stelle from Imperial College.

And remember – if you’d like to nominate someone for next year’s awards, you can do so here.

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