Clear Direction Award win for University of Birmingham physics students


Congratulations to Maxwell Munro and Marvin Sipp for winning the Clear Direction Award 2018!

The award is a collaboration between ourselves and the University of Birmingham and involves undergraduates at the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy competing to demonstrate their ability to discuss technical and complex subject matter in a simplified way that can be understood by a lay person.

Around 25 students gave verbal presentations to a panel of judges and this year Maxwell and Marvin shared the honours after judges were unable to split the pair.

Marvin spoke about Quantum Chromodynamics, a theory which explains how the particles that form protons and neutrons interact with one another. Meanwhile, Maxwell spoke about the Higgs mechanism, a theory which explains how mass was imparted to particles due to symmetries in the laws of nature being broken.

Dr Jagvir Purewal, Senior Associate, Technology & Engineering here at Forresters, was one of the judges and helped devise the competition, which is now in its fifth year, based on his own experience.

“I gained my PhD at Birmingham University and a few years ago I returned and met with one of my advisors, Mike Gunn,” he said. “I told him about my interview with Forresters where I was asked about my PhD and my research. I found it quite difficult to explain my research to a non-physicist, as I had never done that before.

“From that meeting, we came up with the idea of helping physics students become better communicators and teaching them to enhance their verbal skills. We named it the Clear Direction Award because patent law can be quite a complicated area, so when we at Forresters advise clients we always aim to be as clear as possible and use language that they fully understand.

“Both Maxwell and Marvin demonstrated confidence in their presentations, they were concise and were able to clearly communicate to judges. It was difficult to separate so making them joint winners was our only option.”

Fellow judge, Stephanie Thomas, who is a trainee patent attorney at Forresters and a former student at the University of Birmingham, added: “We would like to congratulate Maxwell and Marvin for winning this year’s competition. Clear Direction is Forresters’ ethos, and a big part of our task when protecting IP is providing clear and concise advice, avoiding bombarding our clients with over-complicated language.  The key is providing just the right amount of information – accessibility without imprecision.

“Coming from a University’s physics department (or any other science department) where technical language is prominent and understood by all, it can be hard to break out of that speaking style. The winners used clever analogies and everyday terms to explain their ideas in an accessible way, a skill which would serve them well in the IP world.

“As an alumnus of the University of Birmingham Physics department, this competition would have been useful to help prepare me for interviews – physics students (and hopefully students of other technical disciplines, in future) who treat this competition as a platform to practise clear communication will go far in the professional world!”

Maxwell Munro said: “’Participating in the Forresters’ Clear Direction Award was overall a fun and very rewarding experience.

“The competition offered a new challenge of communicating at a ‘layman’ level, something which would otherwise be overlooked throughout the degree. Communicating is something which a lot of students struggle with, so the opportunity to practice and hone those skills is invaluable for many physicists – not only in the world of academia, but also for moving out of education and into their careers.”

Head of School, Professor Martin Freer added: “The School of Physics and Astronomy values highly its relationship with Forresters, especially through the Clear Direction competition. The opportunity this provides for Physics students to understand how they can potentially apply their skills to real world situations is powerful. We also are very proud that a number of our students have gone on to have successful careers with Forresters.”