Category Archives: Uncategorized

09Nov/20

SEPnet STUDENTS’ EXPO WEBINAR – WEDNESDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2020, 09.30 – 13.00

The annual Students’ Expo provides an opportunity for summer placement students to showcase their work through presentations and posters to over 120 employers, academic tutors and peers. This will be the 12th Expo and the first online.

This year 62 undergraduate placements took place (compared with 74 last year). This is a tremendous achievement given the unprecedented situation. We are very grateful to all the organisations and supervisors for their flexibility and support and congratulate the students for their resilience and ability to cope with such uncertainty and adapt so quickly to a different way of working. They have demonstrated exactly the sort of skills and attitudes that employers value!  

As always students have had a range of interesting placements, many of them home-based, with a variety of large and small employers across different industries and research areas including data science, engineering, energy, IT, satellite communication, defence and scientific research.

The half-day webinar will include presentations from students about their projects and an online poster gallery where attendees can view students’ posters before, during and after the event. You can view the gallery here: https://sway.office.com/tvy2DpRlk7DMyeMc

The event is chaired by Professor Sir William Wakeham and we are delighted that this year’s keynote address will be delivered by Dr Bajram Zeqiri, NPL Fellow in Ultrasound at National Physical Laboratory.

For more information email summerplacements@sepnet.ac.uk

04Nov/20

Improving our research culture – Research Culture Week, 16-20 November, University of Surrey

Although academic research is an exciting endeavour we are witnessing a growing discontent with the culture within academia, with recent findings (e.g.https://wellcome.org/reports/what-researchers-think-about-research-culture) showing high levels of stress, mental health problems, discrimination, bullying, work pressure and harassment among researchers.

University of Surrey is organising a series of talks from 16-20 November during the Research Culture Week with experts who will address some of the above issues to help improve our research culture in a holistic fashion. There will be two talks per day with outstanding speakers including Angela Saini, Gelong Thubten and Jim Al-Khalili. Find out more on our webpage:
https://surreyreach.github.io/

Registration is free of charge via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/surrey-reach-research-culture-week-tickets-124385021949

28Oct/20

Taking control of your career as a woman in physics – Wednesday, 9 December 2020, 10.00–13.00

A IOP and SEPnet Joint Webinar

The Institute of Physics and SEPnet are holding an online careers webinar for women and non-binary physics students (i.e. undergraduate, postgraduate and postgraduate research), as well as recent physics graduates working in a range of employment sectors.

Our half-day panel and networking event will give you a chance to find out the variety of career options available to physicists. You will hear from a diverse range of women in physics-related careers who will talk about their roles and how they got to where they are. They will provide practical advice and information about the skills and experience you need to progress in your career.

This event is open to IOP members and non-members. To register for a place, please click here: http://iop.msgfocus.com/q/119Ae11xyIfK/wv

22Oct/20

Online GRADnet Induction event welcomes new SEPnet PGRs

The GRADnet Induction day online event took place on Wednesday, 21 October 2020 with a welcome from Professor Sean Ryan, SEPnet Executive Director, University of Hertfordshire and Cristobel Soares, SEPnet Graduate Network Manager University of Surrey.

Over 120 new starters signed up for the following workshops:

  • Introduction to basic Python and Scientific Python:  Dr Tim Kinnear, University of Kent
  • Science communication skills:  Dr Heather Campbell, University of Surrey, Dr Claudia Antolini, Royal Holloway University of London, Hannah Tonry, University of Kent
  • Software skills needed for research:  Claire Hepwood, Royal Holloway, University of London

Included in the programme was a presentation from Jack Foster, postgraduate researcher at the University of Southampton, on his recent SEPnet PGR placement with Crossfield Fusion Limited.  Jack worked remotely due to COVID-19 with this new start-up company specializing in compact fusion reactors.  He outlined the benefits of completing a placement: expanding his knowledge of nuclear fusion and fusion technology; learning new software and about Particle-In-Cell (PIC) computational physics in general; having practical, hands-on experience with building a physical machine; familiarization with professional work practices and getting a job at the end of the placement! 

Well done Jack and thank you for encouraging our current cohort to consider taking up a SEPnet placement at some point in their PhD.  See here for further information on our SEPnet Placement Scheme.

Thank you to all our presenters for supporting this GRADnet event and adapting their normal face-to-face talks with hands-on interactive group work to online delivery.  

Delegate feedback is encouraging for future online delivery but GRADnet hopes to host this event next year in London where networking will be included.  Fingers crossed!

“The best virtual seminar I’ve attended so far – well organised and informative. Thank you!”

“Clear overview of the main principles behind coding. Very clear tips and advice of what we can do to improve our code. The Teams app has been very useful and very well organized, thanks.”

“Helpful in learning the importance of communication and getting your point across in front of people with different disciplines and diverse groups.”

07Oct/20

SEPnet Diversity Webinar: Nurturing community & belonging – particularly during Covid-19

Wednesday 2 December 2020, 10.00 – 13.00   Hosted by University of Kent

Building an inclusive community within universities where students and staff feel heard and supported is more important than ever in the current climate. Universities need to consider the impact of remote working and studying as well as dealing with future uncertainty for different groups including, for example, 1st generation students, those from different BAME backgrounds and those with physical and mental health issues. Early career researchers can be forgotten and feel a lack of empowerment and anxiety about their future. Understanding how different groups engage with their working and learning environment is key to helping them feel a sense of belonging and enabling them to achieve their potential.

This annual workshop will explore how we can engage students and support early career researchers through specific interventions aimed at addressing these challenges. This event is aimed at all STEM staff, PGRs and student representatives and those responsible for diversity and inclusion including Project Juno and diversity champions, Athena SWAN representatives, HR managers and academics.

The webinar is FREE to attend. Places are limited. Please register for a place here on a first come, first served basis.

PROGRAMME
10.00 Chair’s Introduction – Professor, Nigel Mason, Head of School and E&D Committee

10.15 The effect of online/remote learning on widening participating students,
Amy Low, Service Delivery Director, AbilityNet

10.40 Understanding attainment differentials at a London-based university: student engagement through a mixed-method lens,
Dr Diego Bunge, Independent Researcher and Dr Daniel Hartley, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

11.05 Early Career Researcher Mental Health in Academia,
Dr Zoë Ayres, Research Scientist and Mental Health Advocate

11.30 Panel discussion
11.50 Break
12.05 Breakout group discussions
12.35 Summary and questions
13.00 Close of proceedings

02Oct/20

SEPnet launches new careers resource for schools!

We have developed a set of careers postcards showcasing a range of careers which use physics qualifications or skills. These highlight employers in the SEPnet region which offer relevant roles and give information on the levels of qualifications needed.

The new Gatsby Careers Benchmarks, especially benchmark 4, highlight the expectation on teachers to embed careers into their classroom teaching. These cards are an easy way to introduce STEM careers into classrooms, and all are mapped to the KS3 curriculum.

We owe a huge thanks to NUSTEM as these were developed based on NUSTEM resources, and they have been fantastically generous and supportive throughout the process. We have utilised the 15 STEM attributes laid out by NUSTEM, based on previous work of the WISE Campaign and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

We are also very grateful for the support of all the organisations who have contributed including: AWE, Brady Mallalieu Architects, CGG, Fat Fish Games, Forest Learning Alliance, Framestore, Jacobs, The Met Office, Millais Alliance, NPL, RSSL, Surrey Satellite Technology, Thames Water and University of Surrey.

The cards are available to download and print for free here. If you would like any more information about the cards, or advice on how to use them, please email outreach@sepnet.ac.uk.

30Sep/20

STEM Careers Postcards

We have developed a set of careers postcards showcasing a range of careers which use physics qualifications or skills. These highlight employers in the SEPnet region which offer relevant roles and give information on the levels of qualifications needed.

The new Gatsby Careers Benchmarks, especially benchmark 4, highlight the expectation on teachers to embed careers into their classroom teaching. These cards are an easy way to introduce STEM careers into classrooms, and all are mapped to the KS3 curriculum.

We owe a huge thanks to NUSTEM as these were developed based on NUSTEM resources, and they have been fantastically generous and supportive throughout the process.  We have utilised the 15 STEM attributes laid out by NUSTEM, based on previous work of the WISE Campaign and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

We are also very grateful for the support of all the organisations who have contributed including: AWE, Brady Mallalieu Architects, CGG, Fat Fish Games, Forest Learning Alliance, Framestore, Jacobs, The Met Office, Millais Alliance, NPL, RSSL, Surrey Satellite Technology, Thames Water and University of Surrey.

The cards are available to download and print for free here. If you would like any more information about the cards, or advice on how to use them, please email outreach@sepnet.ac.uk.

23Sep/20

Organising a virtual conference during a global pandemic!

Virginia Apostolopou, PhD student, Soft Matter Group, University of Surrey, shares her experience of organising a SEPnet Student-led Conference: “Soft Matter: the unseen science all around us”, during challenging times.

In my first year as a PhD student at the University of Surrey, I heard about SEPnet and the exciting activities they organise for postgraduate students. Previous institutes that I have attended didn’t have these opportunities for training and networking and so I was very excited to take part in the workshops and the activities organised by the network. One of the activities that caught my attention from the beginning was the student-led conference. I loved the idea of a conference organised by postgraduates and I kept it in the back of my mind as something I will love to try in the future.

At the beginning of my second year of my PhD, I started discussing with people from my group at Surrey, the idea of submitting a conference proposal. Our motivation was the diversity of our projects; although we were all in the Soft Matter group, we worked in different projects, from industrial applications to applications of nano materials. We wanted to translate this diversity and multi-disciplinary nature of Soft Matter physics into a conference that will bring together students working from seemingly different projects, but in the core, the physics of their research is very similar. Our initial intention of a multi-disciplinary conference was reflected in the speakers we chose to invite: a group of six, well-established researchers from different fields of soft matter physics and different institutes agreed enthusiastically to support our conference by presenting their work.

By late February everything was ready for the conference: the schedule, the website, speakers, accommodation and the catering requirements. It was to be held at the University of Southampton, on the 25th-27th March. At the same time, more and more news started to emerge about a concentrated epidemic in a region in China, now spreading rapidly to the rest of the word. One after the other, big conferences and scientific meetings began announcing their cancellations. By early-March we were still hopeful that since we were going to be a small conference we would be able to go ahead. As we were getting closer to the dates we realised that we should face the situation sensibly and cancel the conference until further notice.

We initially decided to reschedule the conference for early September. Our decision was based on our belief that the main purpose of the conference was for the students to share their work and create future collaborations. We thought that having a virtual conference instead would dismiss that purpose. Technology is an essential tool in these weird times but still, it cannot entirely replace personal interactions among scientific communities. However, eventually, we had to face the reality of our times and rather reluctantly had to move the conference online.

To our surprise the conference was well-received! We managed to book all our invited speakers and almost all the original delegates were able to participate. Some of our speakers suggested opening the conference to students outside SEPnet. We thought that during these difficult times, it is important to open this kind of opportunity to everyone in the scientific community. We were delighted to see delegates from all over the world joining our virtual conference.

I think that overall the conference was a great success. It definitely exceeded my expectations regarding networking and engagement. I am very proud of the scientific programme that we managed to put together and the discussions that took place during the conference.

It was all the result of an excellent collaboration with a group of extremely talented people: Katrin Elidottir, Louie Scott, Malin Schulz, Mireya Borg, University of Surrey, Rhiannon Harries, University of Sussex and of course, Cristobel Soares, SEPnet Graduate Network Manager, who helped and guided us along the way.

It is very impressive to see what a team of creative and passionate people can accomplish in a these very challenging and uncertain times!

 

16Sep/20

Organising my first conference during a pandemic!

Tomás E. Müller Bravo, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southampton gives his perspective on organising and delivering a SEPnet student-led conference during a pandemic!

Every year SEPnet provides an opportunity to a group of postgraduate researchers to organise a two-day student-led conference at the University of Southampton. I first came to know about this when I applied for a talk at the Astronomy conference from 2019 ( From Infinity to Zero: the history of the Universe in redshift). These types of conferences are perfect for early career researchers as it is organised by students, for students, although a few academic speakers are also invited. You do not feel the same pressure as with the big international conferences where you find all the “big names” from your research field. In addition, you also get to know lots of people in the same career stages as you and share experiences.

After the 2019 conference I attended was over, I was very interested in organising one of my own. I talked to Elizabeth Swann, University of Portsmouth, the lead organiser to ask her for advice (this was really helpful!). I got very excited with the idea, so I decided to ask around in my Astronomy department for fellow PGRs who might be interested in organising a conference and started writing a proposal. At the same time a group of PGRs from the University of Hertfordshire were writing one of their own. They kindly suggested to work together instead of competing, so we started collaborating on a single proposal (after all, isn’t this what research is all about?).

Choosing the topic of the conference was relatively easy. As many big telescopes and surveys are coming in the near future, we thought it might be a good idea to focus on big data and machine learning, thus, the title of the conference: The Big Data Era in Astronomy. Finding academic speakers wasn’t too hard either. As several of us in the organising committee work on different fields, we quickly came up with a list of candidates. Cristobel Soares, Graduate Network Manager, was in charge of the logistics and  funding and very helpful with her advice and support.   We mainly had to focus on the structure, science and social events (eg, a conference dinner) at the meeting. Everything was going according to plan as the conference date was approaching, however, everything changed when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Many things were quite uncertain at that time. We didn’t know how long and how much this pandemic would affect everyone, so we had to postpone the conference. As time passed, we grew impatient. We didn’t know if we were going to have the opportunity to host the meeting or if we would have to cancel it. Eventually, we decided to do what many other conferences, schools and workshops were doing, choose a new date and go virtual!

This was full of challenges. We didn’t have to worry about funding, conference dinner and other logistics, but we did have to think about the proper platforms to host our virtual conference on. Thankfully, all SEPnet universities have access to Microsoft Teams, so we chose it as our platform for hosting the talks. In addition, Slack is widely used in academic environments as it is perfect for asynchronous discussions, questions, announcements, etc. We also decided to use Slido for the questions at the end of each talk, which was quite new to all of us.   I actually got to know about Slido during an ESO conference I attended in June.

Unfortunately, as things were still uncertain close to the new date of the conference in September, many of the students were unable to attend. Therefore, we had to shorten the length of the conference from two days to one and cut the number of sessions by half. However, the conference turned out better than expected.

From the feedback from the participants we learnt that the length of the conference (including the length of talks, breaks, etc.) worked well. Furthermore, the platforms used (Microsoft Teams, Slack, Slido) were really useful and the attendees found the conference was worth attending. Nonetheless, most of them, given the opportunity to choose, would prefer an in-person meeting instead of a virtual one.

Fingers-crossed for the 2021 Student-led Conferences!

28Aug/20

Inspirational EDI Online Workshops for Staff, ECRs and Students!

Professor Averil Macdonald OBE, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant and former SEPnet Diversity Lead, has developed a set of 7 short (50 min max) inspirational online (Zoom) EDI workshops for students, ECRs, academics and professional staff respectively.

Trialled at Birmingham and Southampton with very positive feedback, these sessions are now available to other universities to roll out across departments and are a great way of developing stimulating discussion, sharing good practice and creating effective support communities between students, ECRs and staff across departments especially while working away from campus.

Sessions include:
• Micro-aggressions: a risk for everyone – UB workshop set in the academic context for all staff covering recruitment, teaching, research and staffing strategy.
• The Language Trap: how to recruit the best – this talk explains how language and vocabulary can make a difference – for all staff
• Taking the Chair – training offering tools to manage meetings well (and not to be overlooked)
• Top Tips for Success- it’s never too late! – workshop for anyone – academic & professional services staff- at any age.
• Making it Fair: navigating university and more in an unfair world – training for u/g & p/g students to see how to progress at uni and beyond
• Keeping it Fair: keeping your teaching fair for everyone – UB training for PhD students and ECRs covering teaching / supervision and job applications
• Top Tips – finding the job you were born to do – student workshop, especially effective for female students, covering how to take the next steps into a career.

For more information, please contact a.m.macdonald@bham.ac.uk