Top physics students honoured

14 December 2017

Prof. David Riley, chair of the Institute of Physics in Ireland, presented Silver Medals to the top Leaving Certificate physics students and the Earnshaw Award for the best physics final year undergraduate project in Ireland at the annual Christmas reception.


Angus Harley Photo credits Bryan Brophy

The event in the RDS was attended by friends and members of IOP Ireland together with the students, their families and teachers.

The winning students were:

Earnshaw Medal

  • Anton Feeney-Johansson of Trinity College Dublin for his project on
    Imaging the Inner and Outer Wind of the Closest Red Supergiant with the Jansky Very Large Array.

Anton is now studying for a PhD at DIAS, working with Prof. Tom Ray.

Leaving Certificate Physics Silver Medals

  • Maxime Gadioux, Coláiste Einde, Salthill, Galway
    Teacher - Matthew Locket
    Maxime is now studying Physics and Astrophysics at UCD
  • Oisín McEnroe, Blackrock College, Blackrock, Co Dublin
    Teacher - Ray Ward
    Oisín is now studying Theoretical Physics at TCD

Northern Ireland A-level Physics Silver Medal (presented separately)

  • Angus Harley, Royal Belfast Academical Institution
    Teacher - Jeremy Macafee
    Angus is now studying engineering at Cambridge University


Maxime Gadioux and Oisin McEnroe at the reception 1IMAGE Photography© All Rights Reserved

Speaking at the event, Professor David Riley noted the recent and very positive news about Ireland joining the European Southern Observatory and the welcome increase in students taking physics at Leaving Certificate - with numbers up by 19% since 2012. IOP has put significant resources into support for teaching physics through its teacher networks, and also by providing accurate and engaging careers materials.

However, Professor Riley expressed concern that around a quarter of second-level schools across Ireland are not offering physics at Leaving Certificate level at all. And he spoke of the continuing gender imbalance - with girls making up just 26% of the Leaving Certificate cohort.

Referring to recent comment on the shortage of physics teachers, David Riley said:
“It is essential that specific targets are set to increase the numbers of physics teachers and that these targets are matched with funding. To deny the students of a full quarter of Irish schools the chance to study this highly valued subject runs counter to all government efforts to increase the uptake of physical sciences, which are critical to this country’s economy.”
Professor Riley noted that last year’s report from the Science Technology, Engineering Math (STEM) Education advisory group put forward proposals to enhance the teaching and learning of physics at school, particularly around training and upskilling non-specialist teachers of physics. Many of these issues have long been highlighted by the Institute of Physics, which has developed significant resources for the needs of ‘out-of-field’ teachers. This includes the Stimulating Physics Network, now embedded and successful in England. The IOP’s Improving Gender Balance project is another exam.ple

Such interventions have led to results such as:

  • Increasing the participation of girls in post-16 physics to double the national average
  • Increasing student numbers progressing to AS-level physics at more than double the national rate
  • Significantly raising the proportion of students achieving A*-C grades in physics GCSE compared to the national average

Prof. Riley said that the Institute, in partnership with the Governmemnt, would very much like to develop similar and appropriate support in Ireland. He called for the swift implementation of the STEM Education advisory group proposals to strengthen the teaching and learning of physics in Irish schools.


Anton Feeney-Johansson with Prof David Riley 1IMAGE Photography© All Rights Reserved

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