The University of Southampton

Astrophysicist's I'm a Scientist win pledged toward Miss Piggy marathon

Published: 10 April 2019
Illustration
I'm a Scientist winner, Phil Wiseman

Supernova scientist Phil Wiseman explained how exploding stars can be used to measure the universe in a playful I'm a Scientist - Live! event for schoolchildren in Swindon.

The University of Southampton postdoctoral researcher was declared the winner ahead of five rival researchers, before pledging his winnings to an upcoming fancy dress challenge.

Phil will be running the Brighton Marathon next Sunday for the MS Society, inspired by his mum, Ann, who is living with multiple sclerosis.

With his fundraising total soaring, he will thank supporters by running the 26 miles dressed as the Muppets' Miss Piggy, wearing pink tights adorned with the faces of donors. He will also precede the run that weekend with a gruelling 66-mile bike ride from Southampton.

Phil was one of a dozen scientists with projects linked to or funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) who spoke to 300 secondary school pupils from five Swindon schools at the I'm a Scientist Live! event at The Ridgeway School and Sixth Form College last month.

"Anyone can be a scientist and I hope this event showed young people that following their curiosity can take them a long way in life," Phil says. "This was an exciting chance to showcase some of the mind-blowing things we know about our universe and break some of the scientific stereotypes that they might have been fed in the media and on television."

Phil's research in the School of Physics and Astronomy is working with data from the Dark Energy Survey, an international collaboration mapping hundreds of millions of galaxies and investigating the nature of mysterious dark energy.

"We have discovered thousands of supernovae - the explosions of dying stars - and are using them to make the most precise measurement ever of the rate of the universe's expansion," he explains. "This will help us try to understand the strange Dark Energy which makes up 70% of the 'stuff' in the universe."

Phil is also involved in a project which has recently discovered over 70 strange explosions that look like supernovae, but fade away very quickly.

Next weekend's charity challenge will be his first marathon and has been timed with his mum's 60th birthday.

"My amazing mum has been living with MS for many years now," he says. "While it can be a hindrance in every facet of life, mum, like so many other MS sufferers, enjoys life in the best way possible and serves as an inspiration for all of us."

You can sponsor Phil for his Miss Piggy marathon through his Virgin Money Giving page.

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