Published: 10 September 2015

British Science Festival section headed by Surrey Professor

Professor Stephen Sweeney serves as President of the Physics & Astronomy section of the British Science Festival 2015

The Head of the Department of Physics at Surrey, Professor Sweeney was invited to lead the Physics & Astronomy section of the British Science Festival, which was this year hosted by the University of Bradford from 7 to 10 September. He also delivered a presentation on the story of the blue LED – the device which won the 2014 Nobel Prize.

The largest public showcase for science in the UK, the British Science Festival is held annually by the British Science Association, with the aim of providing opportunities for people to enjoy, explore, investigate and discuss science. The event was first established as the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and has run since 1831. Some of the world’s most ground-breaking scientific advances have been announced at these meetings including the discovery of the first inert gases (by Rayleigh and Ramsay in 1894), the first public demonstration of wireless transmission (by Sir Oliver Lodge in 1894) and JJ Thomson’s discovery of the electron (in 1899). In fact, the term ‘scientist’ was actually coined at these meetings and the ‘dinosaur’ named.

Professor Sweeney says, “Being invited to preside over one of the scientific sections of the British Science Festival is an honour and I’m delighted to have had this opportunity. The Physics & Astronomy programme, developed in collaboration with the Institute of Physics, is aimed at enlightening and entertaining participants, and is very much in line with the British Science Association’s aim of repositioning science as something for everyone. The programme this year is very wide ranging from general relativity through to the history of optics and modern photonics. There really is something to excite everyone.”

As section President, Professor Sweeney delivered an address entitled ‘Rhapsody in blue: the story of the blue LED’. Part of the International Year of the Light, his presentation explored the discovery, research and application of an innovation that has created a revolution in efficient, bright lighting. The blue LED has applications in many fields including display technology and water purification – active areas of research at Surrey.

A former EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Leadership Fellow, Professor Sweeney is an expert in semiconductor materials and devices for use in photonics. A passionate believer in the important role science plays in the health and wealth of people, he is an advocate for UK science and technology globally, and regularly gives school talks and national press interviews.


Discover our programmes in Physics.

Share what you've read?