School Physicist of the Year 2021: An Emotional Night of Celebration

The School Physicist of the Year (SPOTY) awards is an annual event, now in it's sixth year at Keele and supported by The Ogden Trust and Science Across the City. It is designed to celebrate the outstanding talent, success, effort and achievements of science (physics) students currently in Year 6 or Year 10 at local schools.

“These SPOTY awards are a great opportunity for Year 6 and Year 10 students to celebrate their achievements in physics and science,” says Clare Harvey, Chief Executive of The Ogden Trust. “Recognition for their hard work and physics enthusiasm can be a great motivator in their continuing science journey".

It had been hoped that this year could be the first in which the event was hosted within the Central Science Laboratories, but as with the 2020 iteration, a face-to-face awards evening was not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, this didn't stop Ogden Science Outreach Officer, Scott Walker, from ensuring that all the award winners were rightfully recognised and rewarded, albeit virtually.

The virtual SPOTY awards ceremony celebrated all 54 award winners (thirty six Year 6s and fifteen Year 10s) and the event was kicked off with a fantastic keynote from local businesswoman, and recently appointed Keele University Honorary Degree recipient, Carol Shanahan OBE, whose backdrop was the football pitch at Vale Park. The physics-football link continued, with excellent timing, as no sooner had the Port Vale co-owner began her address, did England score against bitter rivals Germany, in the The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, which prompted spontaneous celebrations amongst those in attendance! Rather than deter Carol however, she utilised the energy in the room magnificently and gave a compelling personal anecdote about the perception of "who does physics" and how this is changing at pace. She finished her keynote by arguing why physics, and the pursuit of scientific knowledge, is so important, and perhaps THE most important subject one can study at university!

Following the keynote, Barbara Grundy, North West Consultant for The Ogden Trust, gave a brief insight into why physicists are so highly valued and important in today's world, and showcased some of the varied careers that physicists can pursue as a result of their unique skill set.

Scott Walker then resumed hosting duties and discussed the 2020 Physics Nobel Prize winners and their award winning research, as well as a number of recent physics developments, or, 'things we have discovered since SPOTY 2020'. This included mention the various robotic missions to Mars, mixed ion beams for enhanced cancer treatment and the discovery of room-temperature semiconductors.

Dr. Juliana Morbec, a Lecturer in Physics at Keele, was next to offer her congratulations before providing a powerful personal insight into why she decided to follow a career in physics. As well as a snapshot of her current computational materials physics research, and how this is positively impacting society (e.g. smart watch technology), she continued by saying, "Physics is fascinating, physics is everywhere and can explain how things work - that is why I chose to teach physics". She finished by encouraging the award winners to be continue to be curious offering this 'guarantee', "I guarantee you will never get bored if you choose a career in physics!".

SPOTY 2021 Juliana Morbec

“The event was incredibly well received,” explains Scott. “There were around 100 participants at its peak, which is likely to have constituted all (or almost all) of the SPOTY award winners and parents/guardians along with a number of nominating teachers and invited guests".

  • As a parent I would like to personally thank you for organising the event, and to know that you are willing to support these pupils as they make the transition into secondary education, I find this support framework completely overwhelming! - Parent
  • My son found the ceremony rewarding, interesting and extremely inspiring - Parent
  • I would like to thank you for yesterdays award evening, I thought it was very well presented. Thank you for X's gift card, he couldn't wait to use it and has purchased a [science] book online today - Parent
  • Thank you for a well organised evening - Parent

After the success of last year's event, Scott was concerned that the ongoing pandemic would result in a reduction in nominations this time around. However, as Scott explains, that concern proved unfounded “I was concerned that, due to a very challenging 18 months in education, the number of teacher nominations might have decreased this year, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. In fact, nominations increased by 50% compared to last year, which is huge testament to the passion, commitment and nuturing nature of our fabulous local teaching community". Scott continues, "what was noticeable this year within the teacher nominations was the resilience shown by the award winners, even when restricted to home learning, their passion for the subject never waivered, and they found ways to continue to investigate the world around them".

It wasn't just their own learning that they supported, Scott continues, "the number of nominations which referred to the award winners supporting fellow pupils during this challenging and turbulent period was remarkable. It is clear that this years SPOTY cohort are incredibly compassionate and selfless, helping friends and fellow pupils learn and enjoy science in a way which they might not otherwise have been able to do".
'X is very kind and will help her peers in class, she can be very supportive of those who do not find science as accessible', "is just one, of many, such examples" explains Scott.

HUGE congratulations to all the SPOTY winners from everyone at Keele University, The Ogden Trust and Science Across the City We all wish you the very best in your future scientific endeavours!

A full list of SPOTY 2021 award winners can be found below.

SPOTY 2021

Year 6

Akshaya Sani Nair: St Mary’s Catholic Primary School
Alfie Brannigan: St Gregory's Catholic Academy
Alfie Ridgway: Co-op Academy Clarice Cliff
Alvion Thomas: St George and St Martins Catholic Academy
Belinda Thomas: Christ Church CE Primary Academy
Benji Holden: Gladstone Primary Academy
Bradley Wilton: Hillside Primary School
Caleb-Jack Chalmers: Moorpark Junior School
Ethan Edwards: Stoke Minster C.E Primary Academy
Ethan Hadley: St John's CE Primary school
Ethan Hancock: Ball Green Primary School
Georgia Powell: Star Academy
Giacomo Roberts: Co-op Academy Friarswood 
Grace Bailey: The Richard Heathcote CP School
Ibrahim Abdur-Rahma: Watermill School
Jack Amos: Ellison Primary Academy
Jack Wood: The Meadows Primary Academy 
Jood Alsharif: Holden Lane Primary School
Joshua Keen: Knutton St Mary’s CE Academy
Kelise Taylor: Sneyd Academy
Khalisah Rashid: Belgrave St Bartholomew's Academy
Kitty Noonan: Milton Primary Academy
Lennon Lummis: The Willows Primary School
Mayson Hankey: St Pauls C of E Primary School 
Meena Mohammadi: Waterside Primary School
Minnie Tomlinson: Yarlet Prep School
Muhammad-Usman Khan: St Peter's Catholic Academy
Oliver Sutton: Burnwood Community School
Oscar Coons: Grove Academy
River Maddocks: Milton Primary Academy
Ryan Confrey: Watermill School
Shaun Bickerton: Sandford Hill Primary School
Shay Matthias: St Wilfrid's Catholic Academy
Stanley Webb: Priory CE Primary School
Tanya Anjali Ram: St Mary’s CofE Primary School
Taya-Rose Phillips: Our Lady and St Benedict Catholic Academy
Tyler Heaton: Sutherland Primary Academy
Zachary Hughes: Sun Academy Bradwell
Zain Hussain: Alexandra Junior School

Year 10

Brody Bould: Newcastle Academy
Charlie Bode: Westwood College
Connor Candlish: Aurora Hanley School
Courtney Picking: Ormiston Meridian Academy
Efstratios Papadopoulos: Clayton Hall Academy
Emily Rizk: Endon High School
Jiaying Lin: St Thomas More Catholic High School
Joshua Edwards: Watermill School
Layla Macharia: St Joseph's College
Madison Dean: Sandbach High School and Sixth Form College 
Mohammad Tahir Akram: Thistley Hough Academy
Sharliga Thanukanth: St Thomas More Catholic Academy
William Brady: Newcastle under Lyme School
William Mair: Blythe Bridge High School
Zak Dennis: St Peters CofE Academy

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