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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

CDT News

Mona’s ‘3 minute wonder’ wins over judges in regional final

(21 November 2013)

Guanmei Wang, known to her friends and colleagues as Mona, won the competition for the North East Physics IOP communication award.

Mona, a CDT in Energy Ph.D. research student in the Physics Department at Durham University, won the competition organised by the Institute of Physics beating nine other worthy contenders in what was a very competitive final.

In accordance with the competition rules, the early career researchers are only allowed one visual slide as an aid, and must present complex subject matter in an entertaining, informative and understandable way – this could involve talking or possibly demonstration elements.

Presenting to a select panel of judges comprising representatives from industry, the education sector and academia, her three minute entry, titled “Nanocrystalline Superconductors: How to Contain a Star” wowed the team, prompting one of them to award her ten out of ten.

Miss Wang said, “Presenting my research in the 3 Minute Wonder competition was a fantastic experience along with meeting many passionate researchers in the world of physics. I am excited about representing the North East in the National Finals, but whatever happens, I'm sure it will be an even more amazing experience!".

“I started with the motivation behind my PhD – enabling fusion energy and the ITER project, and what an ambitious challenge that is, that we’re trying to create and contain a star on planet earth which is ten times the temperature of the sun’s core. I also talked about how we needed high magnetic fields from superconductors to contain this star [and showed that] we can improve their performance by fabricating nanocrystalline superconductors, giving us a cheap, practical material to bring us a step closer to fusion energy.”

For the next stage of the competition Mona will travel to London in the Spring to compete in the National Final, taking on the best Physics communicators from other parts of the UK.

Branch Chair, Richard Hornby, said: “The difficult constraints placed on the candidates – in particular the lack of projected slides and the strict time limit, made presenting their work in an accessible manner really challenging – a challenge which all ten finalists really overcame with great credit.

The variety of presentation techniques used really showed the diverse ways in which complex science can be presented.” He added, “The winner deserves great credit to have been able to succeed amongst such an excellent and challenging competition”.

The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society – a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application. The IOP engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, are world leaders in professional scientific communications. For more details and info on outreach events visit or

More details of the IOP 3 Minute Wonder competition can be found at For the full story on Mona's success please visit

The four judges were: Prof. Carlos Frenk (Durham University), Angelina Cooke (Schoolteacher), Geoffrey Heywood (IOP Stimulating Physics Network) and Prof. Max Robinson (Founding Director, Kromek Ltd.)

For further details, please contact Richard J. L. Hornby (North East Branch Chair) at