Scottish scientists and MSPs meet as IOP presents Highers awards

21 November 2016

Chief scientist for Scotland Professor Sheila Rowan was among the keynote speakers at an event on 9 November when scientists met Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and the IOP presented awards to the top-scoring candidates in this year’s Highers exams.

Rowan, who is director of the Institute for Gravitational Research and a fellow of the IOP, spoke of the importance of science in underpinning the advice given to government. The aim of the role is also to champion science and its benefits, to represent Scottish science internationally and to inspire people, she said.

At the day-long event at Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh there was an exhibition including a demonstration by students from Alness Academy (pictured with Kezia Dugdale MSP, leader of the Labour Party at Holyrood) and presentations of prizes from several learned societies by Shirley-Anne Sommerville MSP, minister for further education, higher education and science in the Scottish Government.

These included the IOP in Scotland’s Excellence in Physics Awards, given to recognise the success of students who achieve the highest marks in the Higher and Advanced Higher examinations in physics. This year the award for Physics Advanced Higher went to Sam Ward of Dollar Academy, Clackmannanshire (pictured above with Sommerville).

The award for Physics Higher went to Harry McLachlan of Breadalbane Academy, Aberfeldy (pictured left with Sommerville). The students were presented with certificates, while staff at each of their schools received Excellence in Physics School Awards in recognition of their contribution to the success of the students.

The event was organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, whose president, Professor Sir John Holman, praised the excellence of research in Scotland but said there was no room for complacency. The theme of the day was STEM education and this needed to start early as the evidence showed children made choices about science by the age of 11, he said. He also welcomed the Curriculum for Excellence but said there was scope to improve how it addressed assessment and the teacher workload attached to it.

John Swinney MSP, cabinet secretary for education and skills in the Scottish Government and its deputy first minister, welcomed the contributions of the Learned Societies Group, of which the IOP is a member, on the current review of assessment. He also highlighted the importance of improving gender balance across the Scottish economy and mentioned the IGB Scotland project, which is a partnership between the IOP, Skills Development Scotland and Education Scotland.

Other speakers included Stuart Farmer, a Physics Network Co-ordinator for the IOP, who won the Institute’s Bragg Medal and Prize this year. He also ran a breakout session, as did the IOP’s project officer for IGB Scotland, Dr Heather Earnshaw.

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