Higgs Prize kicks off FM science showcase

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An annual prize to honour the world-renowned Edinburgh University scientist who has given his name to the Higgs boson is to be announced by the First Minister, launching a week showcasing Scottish science.

The annual Higgs Prize will be open to Scottish school students who excel in physics. It will be formally launched by the First Minister and Professor Peter Higgs at a reception at the First Minister’s official residence on Tuesday.

The Higgs Prize is one of the highlights of a week showcasing Scotland’s scientific excellence, when the First Minister will be promoting the global reputation of Scottish science and the enormous progress being made by Scottish scientists in research and development.

Announcements expected during the week include:

  • The Higgs Prize, offering outstanding young school physicists the chance to win a trip to the CERN facility in Switzerland, where work continues on researching the Higgs particle, named after Professor Higgs
  • The appointment of 33 new government-funded health fellows, supporting scientific research into conditions such as motor neurone disease
  • An official reception to honour the work of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, attended by Professor Higgs.

The First Minister is also expected to make a significant announcement about Scottish life sciences and mark a landmark in Scottish space science.

Mr Salmond said:

“Scottish science in all its forms is going from strength to strength, building on our proud history of scientific discovery – the achievements of Lister, Kelvin, Macadam and many, many others whom every Scot knows of and is proud of.

“Today, Professor Peter Higgs is a household name who is known the world over. His work is celebrated internationally and Scotland is very proud of him.

“The Higgs Prize will be an opportunity for some of Scotland’s brightest young school physicists to see for themselves the cutting-edge of international physics at CERN. I’m delighted that Professor Higgs’ achievements will inspire future generations of Scots.”

Professor Peter Higgs said:

“As a student at my old school in Bristol, I was inspired by seeing the name of Paul Dirac appear several times on the Honours board. Dirac was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1933 for his work of inventing anti-matter and in particular the positron.

“I am pleased to have my name associated with this prize and hope that this will inspire young students of today just as I was myself in the past. I know very well how exciting and amazing visits to CERN can be.

“Rewarding those who have excelled in physics in this way and supporting the next generation of scientists is to be warmly welcomed.”

Professor Sir Peter Knight, President of the Institute of Physics, said,

“We’re delighted that the Government intends to introduce this prize. We will be working with them to establish the best way to identify Scotland’s most promising young physicists.

“With £8.5 billion of the Scottish economy created by physics-based businesses, this prize is recognition of the vital importance of the subject.”

Looking ahead to the week, Mr Salmond added:

“Our scientific expertise earns Scotland billions of pounds in exports from around the world, supports around 170,000 jobs and has scientists from Germany to Japan, India to Australia clamouring to work with our experts in fields such as particle physics, animal health, drug discovery, computer science and biomedical and health informatics.

“As well as the Higgs Prize and a number of other announcements, this week the government will be announcing the appointment of 33 new health fellows to conduct research into medical challenges like treating motor neurone disease, how to use technology to help people with diabetes and how to control internal bleeding. The results of our scientific expertise could benefit millions of people all over the world and potentially translate into market-ready innovations.

“Scotland’s scientists and innovators have made hundreds of discoveries and developments, from penicillin to ultrasound and in fields as diverse as electromagnetism and cloning. Today this tradition of invention is in good hands and I am very much looking forward to a week of showcasing Scottish scientific excellence.”