The Great IPEM Short Story competition: The Results!

Two IPEM members had a great idea: why not tap into members’ writing skills to create stories that can be used for outreach with children? And so, the Great IPEM Short Story competition was launched.

It was the idea of IPEM Member Trustee and Fellow Dr Anna Barnes and IPEM Fellow Jo Young, who thought it would be a great way to engage young people about medical physics and clinical engineering. Members were asked to pen a short story of up to 1,000 words on medical physics or clinical engineering featuring some element of their scientific work or experience.

It was open to all IPEM members with two categories to enter, a story aimed at children under the age of 11 and those aged 11 to 16. The prize for the winning entry in each category was to have the story published in the December 2019 edition of Scope and on the website. Some of the shortlisted stories in each category have been published here too. All the featured stories here are available to our outreach volunteers to use in schools or other outreach events.

All the entries received were anonymised and a panel of judges, including Dr Barnes, Peter Forbes, the Royal Literary Fund Project Fellow at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and children from each age category, picked a winner from each one.

Peter said: ‘Engaging young people in science and medicine is an urgent task in the face of the wall-to-wall social media that most of them enter at the age of around nine these days. Short stories are a very effective way of bringing medical matters into the natural orbit of young people. The best short stories highlight a single theme and create a world it is easy to step into. I was impressed by how well the stories on offer did this and believe it’s an initiative that could be tried on a larger scale.’

Given the high quality of entries, it is a well-deserved round of applause to member Katharine Thomson who won – twice! She entered stories in each category and the judges picked them as the winner in each.


Katharine, a medical physicist in the Nuclear Medicine Department at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, said: ‘I’m astonished and delighted to win the IPEM Short Story competition. I really enjoyed thinking about how to write about medical physics for younger readers, and I hope a few people enjoy reading my stories!’ 

You can read Katharine's winning entries below, together with the shortlisted stories. 



Under 11

Winning entry:

  Physicists can't be heroes by Katharine Thomson 


Shortlisted entries:

  Making Monsters by Joanne Cowe
  Princess Erynn's Quest by Teresa Pedley 
  Smarty at the Clever Centre by Michael Dolan 
  The Lights & The Noise by Robin Cooper 


11 to 16

Winning entry:

  Meeting Mr Bloom by Katharine Thomson 

Shortlisted entries:

  Diagnose Freedom by Michael Dolan 
  Linac 8 by Joe Whitbourn 
  Uncle Yoffee's still by Stanley Salmons 

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