21Jun/19

SEPnet PhD student participates in world’s first demonstration of a new method for contactless temperature measurements of solar panels!

The NPL work entitled ‘In situ contactless thermal characterisation and imaging of encapsulated photovoltaic devices using phosphor thermometry’, was recently published in one of the most prestigious solar energy peer-reviewed journals, Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications.  James Kneller, a physics PhD student at Queen Mary University, secured a SEPnet placement with NPL last year and was one of its contributors.

Through collaboration between the Electronic and Magnetic Materials (EMM) Group and the Temperature and Humidity Group, NPL has demonstrated for the first time accurate, contactless temperature measurements of a photovoltaic (PV) device within its glass/polymer/glass encapsulation, with uncertainty of less than 1 ºC.  Authors included Yameng Cao, George Koutsourakis, Gavin Sutton, James Kneller, Sebastian Wood, James Blakesley and Fernando Castro. You can read more about the research here and find out more about James’s placement with NPL here.

 

20Jun/19

SEPnet Public Engagement Leader involved in Europe-wide photonics project getting thousands of girls in STEM

Thousands of young women and girls have had the chance to explore the world of science, engineering, and light technologies thanks to a European photonics research consortium that has created their girls in STEM ecosystem, a series of 33 workshops and 11 Photonics Challenger projects across 10 European countries in a bid to tackle the underrepresentation of women in science.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women.

However, a new outreach project has been tackling this underrepresentation by engaging young female minds with STEM, in the hope that they will pursue a career within the photonics, science or engineering industries.

Staged in ten countries across Europe, a total of 1221 girls have attended the ‘Phablabs 4.0’ initiatives since last year. The workshops have created novel and innovative problems for students to solve using lasers and photonics, the technology around the emission, manipulation and detection of light.

Combining a ‘Fab Lab’ – or a fabrication laboratory – with the world of photonics, the workshops and Challenger Projects offer a glimpse into careers in photonics, engineering, computer coding, and robotics.

Pearl John, SEPnet Public Engagement Leader at the University of Southampton, has led the UK element of the project. Partnering with the Green Lab agri-tech laboratory in Bermondsey Pearl and her team have delivered a series of hands on photonics workshops, reaching audiences who would not otherwise have the opportunity to access hands on physics experiences.

Pearl John and the team from Southampton University.

Hands-on Opportunities

Students have been exploring tasks as varied as creating an artwork made from lasers, modifying a cuddly toy with photonics, or building an infrared glove that acts as a remote control where touching two fingers creates a signal.

The more advanced Challenger Projects have tasked students with building an Invisibility Cloak or creating their own hologram. Some students, like Ester Muylaert, 18, from Halle, Belgium, are really excited to discover material they would not learn anywhere else.

“Phablabs is amazing and interesting. We’ve learned lots of new skills that we wouldn’t have picked up in school. To see the job in front of me and to meet the person who does that job has given me loads of ideas about what I can do in the future. It’s really made me want to work with photonics.”

The researchers have targeted three age categories with workshops aimed at high school girls (Young Minds), female university students (Students) and women who may have already started their careers (Young Professionals 18+).

Gender Balanced Resources

One of the results of the PhabLabs 4.0 project has been the publication of a new booklet, A Gender Balanced Approach. The booklet acts as a guide to future Fabrication Laboratories so that organisers in schools or universities can use it as a reference to gain the interest of girls and young women in science and technology.

By creating gender-sensitive material for the workshops and “Photonics Challenger Projects” the organisers have garnered the interest of girls and young women in science, to generate a lasting impact on their personal relation to STEM and Fab Labs.

Supported by the Gender Action Team, the developers have had the backing of the European Commission with funding from Horizon 2020, and support from a number of professionals such as Professor Averil MacDonald from WISE (Women in Science and Engineering).

“We are delighted to be able to open a door into a world of science that some girls and young women may feel is closed,” Professor MacDonald said. “Girls and young women are more likely to consider studying STEM subjects beyond age 16 if they see that the subject keeps their options open.”

“The STEM sectors can only benefit from the talents of these young women. More girls and young women deserve the chance to have successful and satisfying careers in science, technology, engineering, manufacturing, mathematics and construction,” said Professor MacDonald.

The resources are available as an open resource toolkit for educators to use with their students.

For more details contact phablabs4.0@gmail.com.

14Jun/19

Ninth NExT PhD Workshop, 8-11 July, Cosener’s House, Abingdon

The annual NeXT workshop is attended by 20-30 PhDs and early career researchers in particle physics. This year’s programme will be devoted to strategies for searching and decoding new physics from collider and non-collider experiments.

The aim of the employer panel session on 11 July is to raise awareness of career opportunities outside academia for physics doctorates. Representatives from NPL, AWE, UKAEA, Adaptix, Deloitte and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory will outline their roles and what their organisations look for in physics PhD graduates.

For more information visit: https://indico.cern.ch/event/738002/overview

16May/19

2nd annual SEPnet WRIPA workshop on embedding employability

Physics-Industry Collaboration: Aligning Student Skills with Local Economic Needs
Thursday 25 July 2019, Institute of Physics, London N1
Chaired by Professor Sir William Wakeham

The Office for Students (OfS) focuses on higher education participation, experience, outcomes and value of money. At the same time, the UK Industrial Strategy identifies ‘Places’ as a key “foundation of productivity” to address performance, regional differences and disparities in R&D funding.

To address the twin challenges of graduate outcomes and regional economic prosperity, university physics departments need to consider ‘place-based’ decision-making in student graduate career choices and how to engage with regional employers.

This workshop is for those interested in embedding work-based learning into curriculum design, forming partnerships with regional employers and embedding entrepreneurialism into student skill training. It will build a wider network of employability-focused academic and professional staff and include presentations and case studies from the OfS, IOP and physics departments.

The event is for heads of physics departments, academics responsible for employability, programme managers, heads of teaching and learning, industry representatives and anyone with responsibility for developing physics graduates employability skills.

To see the agenda, travel info and to register for this FREE workshop, click here: https://sepnet-wripa-workshop2.eventbrite.co.uk

17Apr/19

SEPnet Student Conference – 4-5 April in Southampton

SEPnet’s recent student-led conference at Southampton in April saw over 55 PhD students from particle physics and cosmology come together to give talks and present posters over two days.

Student-led conferences are a great way for students to share ideas, develop their organisation and presentation skills and meet each other.

Events included cosmologists playing human bingo during their networking session and prizes were awarded for the best posters. Winners of the poster prizes included Connor McIsaac (Portsmouth, Alex Mitchell (Southampton) and Meirin Evans (Sussex).

13Mar/19

Enfield Council International Women’s Day Conference

Friday 8th March was International Women’s Day, a day where we celebrate the achievements of women and highlight the barriers which still exist to achieving gender equality. Our Director of Outreach and Public Engagement, Dr Olivia Keenan, was invited to speak at the International Women’s Day Conference organised by Enfield council on the subject of Women in Physics. Olivia used the opportunity to highlight the problems we have in physics around gender equality and to highlight some programmes and schemes working to counter this.

Only around 20% of A-level physics students are currently female, in spite of the fact that all genders perform equally well at GCSE level (IOP ‘Why not Physics?’ report, 2018). Similarly, around 20% of Physics undergraduates and postdoctoral students are female. However, in academia it gets worse as women progress to more senior positions, with only 11% of Physics professors in the UK being women (IOP ‘Academic Staff in UK Physics Departments’, 2017). These figures get even worse when we look at the ethnicity of physics academic staff. Overall, for all genders, 94.2% of UK national academic staff in physics are white, 2.4% are Asian, 1.5% are Chinese and 0.1% are black (IOP ‘Academic Staff in UK Higher Education Institutions, 2012). All women face significant barriers in physics academia, with non-white women being currently barely represented at all.

The picture is similar when we look at industry. WISE’s 2018 Workforce Statistics show that currently only 22% of the core STEM workforce are women. For engineering, a career route particularly relevant for those with physics degrees, this proportion falls to 12%.

The good news is that multiple organisations are working on programmes to help turn the tide, and increase the gender diversity in physics. In 2013 the IOP published the report Closing Doors which explores gender and subject choices at school across six subjects. It found that nearly half of schools were making the gender imbalance worse, however in schools that were sending more girls to do A-level physics the gender imbalance was also smaller in other subjects. This was followed by the Opening Doors report in 2015. It highlighted the issues schools deal with when it comes to gender balance and makes recommendations on how schools can address gender balance. These recommendations include appointing gender champions on senior leadership teams, ensuring that sexist language is unacceptable and presenting all subjects equally to students in terms of relative difficulty.

University College London is leading the ASPIRES/ ASPIRES 2 project, which is a longitudinal study of young people’s science and career aspirations from ages 10-19. They have coined the term science capital, which is a measure of how likely someone is to see science as for them. Science capital can be influenced by multiple factors including whether there is a scientist in the family, if science is discussed in the home and whether someone has visited science spaces outside of formal education. They also find that girls pursuing the physical sciences post-16 are ‘exceptional’ in many ways, including having high science capital and tailoring their performances of femininity when in a science environment.

SEPnet piloted the Shattering Stereotypes project in the academic year 2016/17 with the aim of determining the best role physics Outreach Officers can play in tackling and improving the gender stereotyping problem in schools. Workshops were held with year 8 students around understanding and countering the stereotypical perceptions of gender, with year 12s involved in leadership roles. This was evaluated and is now running in schools during the 2018/19 academic year. Shattering stereotypes incorporates the People Like Me quiz developed by WISE which highlights scientific careers routes to girls based on the traits and skills which they identify with.

The strong message from all of the research and projects happening around gender and physics show that there are many issues compounding to mean fewer girls go on to take physics. Science capital is a key theme, with the need to work towards increasing science capital being paramount. Another common negative factor is the use of gender stereotyping and gendered language in our society. We need to work on ways to counter these problems to help lower the barriers to more girls and women identifying with, and participating in, the physical sciences.

25Feb/19

Why sign up for a GRADnet Winter School? A PGR’s perspective.

Cumberland lodge is every bit as striking as its reputation implies. Just 15 minutes from Woking station, and situated in Windsor Park, it is both convenient and secluded. I felt very fortunate to be staying there for the GRADnet winter school 18-20 February 2019. It’s a comfortable and well catered venue, with good menus for all dietary requirements.

The winter school aims to cover leadership skills and discusses the current understanding of best practice and common problems. This year it was led by Dr. Trevor Long, who has an outstanding background in the field, as well as a perfectly tuned approach to a practical learning experience.

This is illustrated by a study of the NASA Columbia disaster of 2003. Accounts of the disaster are separated into the perspectives of four figures who were closely involved and the group is split into teams. Each team reports on the contribution of one of the four teams. The Columbia study was very engaging and effective, certainly the highlight of the workshop for many people there.

Many of the concepts and observations on leadership presented were very interesting and thoughtful. It signposted issues important to teamwork in both academia and industry.  An additional feature of the workshop brought together five industry team leaders to aid our understanding of how to put our new leadership skills into practice.  Some of the content did come across as a little enigmatic and it was certainly presented from the perspective of industry.

The trip to Windsor also deserves a mention. It was an excellent demonstration of the sensitivity of physicists to location based variance in the value of beer. The town is charming, of special interest to international students, and the castle is also pretty.

This workshop has a lot to recommend it.

Thank you to SEPnet PGRs from QMUL and Southampton for their contribution in writing this article.

Employer panel with ingenie, Ultra Electronics, Blue/Red Optima, Stifel and the UK Space Agency.

 

Students participating in the “Marshmallow Challenge”!

21Feb/19

Columbia Space Shuttle Mission in Windsor!

The GRADnet Winter School took place on 18-20 February 2019 at Cumberland Lodge, Great Park, Windsor. Dr Trevor Long, consultant, led the workshop for over 30 delegates.

This workshop was an integrated learning event where delegates developed insights into the importance and nature of leadership and effective team working.  These are skills they will require in any career in academia, government or the private sector.

Formed around a multi-media case simulation of the ill-fated Columbia Space Shuttle mission NASA engineers and leaders seek to understand the nature and threat associated with a technical problem that occurred on launch. Over the course of the mission, they analyse the damage, assess the risks, and decide what to do.  Leadership, organisational culture, communication, personality characteristics, formal systems and job positions are amongst many complex issues that affected the course of the decision-making process.

A panel of employers shared their experiences and the challenges they have faced when leading a team in a senior role on the second day:  Selim Cavanagh, ingenie; Rikki Douglas, Ultra Electronics ; Jason Rolles, Blue Optima; Sheela Sharma, Stifel (Europe) and Alex Shepherd, UK Space Agency

Thank you to the employers for their participation and to Trevor for making this workshop a success.

SEPnet PGRs who attended the workshop said:

  • This simulation provided “an important skillset for postgraduate students”;
  • The event was packed, enjoyable and provided a thought-provoking simulation and talks (especially on the importance of communication). There was also an informative careers panel;
  • The best aspects for me are that it has motivated a lot of thoughts and has challenged me to think about myself. The employer panel was extremely productive.  A lot of good insight was shared.

Marshmallow Challenge winning team:

Kent: Emerald Taylor, Alex Paul, Luke Cornwell and Akiko Sato (Kent).  QMUL:  Jesse Coburn.

L-R:  Emerald, Alex, Jesse, Luke and Akiko

Well done for constructing a 22″ tower! Amazing feat of engineering with spaghetti and tape!

 

 

13Feb/19

Director of Outreach and Public Engagement speaking at the IOP

Olivia Keenan, our Director of Outreach and Public Engagement, is giving a talk on her PhD work at the Institute of Physics on the 20th of March. The talk is free and open to all. Refreshments will be served from 6pm, with the talk starting at 6:30.

Location: Institute of Physics, 37 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9BU


Image Credit & Copyright: Malcolm Park (North York Astronomical Association)

Where are all the Galaxies? The Missing Satellite Problem

State of the art computer simulations of our Universe currently over predict the number of dwarf galaxies by a factor of 10. As astronomers, we need to understand why this discrepancy has come about, and whether it is due to problems with simulations, observations, or both. One potential solution is that these galaxies could be hidden, ‘dark galaxies’. Dark galaxies are galaxies which are gas dominated, with few to no stars. There have been many dark galaxy candidates, however, so far none of these has been confirmed. Another solution is that the galaxies are star dominated but extremely faint and hard to detect in crowded, large field surveys. If so these galaxies could be detected using a combination of their physical properties to separate them from background field galaxies. In this talk I will discuss work on this topic, and how this has contributed to understanding the missing satellite problem.