South African Geologist Wins World Young Persons' Lecture Competition

A young geologist from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa is the winner of the first World Young Persons' Lecture Competition, held in London on 21st June. The competition is a new initiative of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), aimed at bringing together young scientists and engineers from around the globe and developing their presentation skills. The inaugural event was supported by Rolls-Royce plc.

The winner, Libby Sharman-Harris, was one of five young materials and minerals scientists and engineers who came together at the IOM3 headquarters in London on the evening of 21 June to take part in the final of this new competition. The other participants came from Singapore, Hong Kong, the USA and the UK, and were each national winners of the competition heats in their own country.

Sharman-Harris gave 'a clear and accessible lecture' on the use of sulphur-isotope analysis in understanding the formation of sulphide minerals in the Platreef, Northern Limb, Bushveld Complex, South Africa, a topic related to her Masters degree. She was unanimously declared the winner by the judges, who were impressed with the way she projected herself and answered questions at the end of her presentation. Reflecting on her victory, she said 'I think I was able to get across quite a difficult subject. And this it what it is all about - communication'.

Runner up in the competition was Johnny Kar-Ho Au, the Hong Kong national winner. Au works for Ove Arup and Partners HK Ltd, and described a technique that aims to prevent corrosion in reinforced concrete with the help of samples that he showed the audience. He said he already felt as though he had won by being able to visit London. In third place was Eric Kan from Singapore, who spoke about the potential of nanocrytalline germanium in flash memory. In his view, the whole event was more a more a session' than a competition.

The judging team was led by Dr Chris Corti, of the World Gold Council, and included Dr Siobhan Matthews, Chair of the IOM3 Younger Members Committee, Dr Mike Hicks, Chief Technologist, Materials, Rolls-Royce plc, and Dr Philip Bischler of British Nuclear Group. The standard was exceedingly high,' says Bischler. There were very few marks between them.'

Dr David Clarke, Head of Technology Strategy at Rolls-Royce plc, spoke on behalf of his company and conveyed his enthusiasm for the competition. "Materials are vital for Rolls-Royce, and increasingly we are looking at not just national partnerships but international links to ensure we cover our broad range of requirements and provide engineeing and manufacturing support at both the global and local level" he said.

Notes for editors
  1. The World Young Persons' Lecture Competition is an initiative of the Institute's Younger Members Committee, and is a development of the Institute's UK Young Persons' Lecture Competition. A quarter of the Institute's 22,000 members reside outside the UK, and the global competition is a means of involving non-UK younger members in such an event.
  2. Full details of the WLC competitors and abstracts of their presentations are available at
  3. For further enquiries relating to the World Lecture Competition, contact Dr Brett Suddell, e-mail:
  4. Rolls-Royce plc operates in long-term businesses, and relies heavily on innovation to ensure that future generations of products contain the leading edge technologies required to make them market leaders in terms of performance, reliability and life-cycle cost. The company invests in technology and capability that can be exploited in this way. It acquires technologies through its co-ordinated 'Vision' programme that is designed to address real business requirements and, wherever possible, find application across more than one business sector.

Date Posted: 22 June 2005

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