Category Archives: Uncategorized


From SEPnet PGR to CEO at OQC!

Dr Ilana Wisby, Founding CEO and Director, Oxford Quantum Circuits, (OQC) a former SEPnet postgraduate researcher at RHUL was invited to talk at this year’s Alexander Stavrou Innovation Lecture on Wednesday, 9 November at the University of Surrey. 

Over the last 4.5 years, Ilana has taken OQC from a patent, to Europe’s leading Quantum Computing as a Service company.  Whilst deep technical roots and priority IP is certainly a core part of OQC’s USP – technology and inventions alone do not make successful companies. OQC’s Value-led Leadership and focus on people are equally, if not more, important.

Ilana shared the lessons she has learned as a deep tech entrepreneur, with a focus on crafting high performance, elite teams and employing considered Value-led Leadership. 

Thanks Ilana for encouraging Surrey undergraduates and postgraduate researchers to undertake a SEPnet summer placement and for endorsing GRADnet’s training programme from your personal experience during your PhD at RHUL!


Why is developing knowledge and skills in Public Engagement important for PGRs?

GRADnet’s online workshop: Developing knowledge and skills in Public Engagement was delivered on 9 November 2022 on Zoom by Dr Claudia Antolini, The Ogden Trust Senior Officer for Outreach and Public Engagement, Royal Holloway University of London.  Over 25 PGRs attended the online event and were given the following tips on how to do public engagement:

  • Identify a target public group/community and think about what your target group might be interested in and link your research to this.
  • How can you reach your target group and what do you feel comfortable doing: teaching? Performing? Speaking in public? Running a workshop? Designing a resource/class/audio-visual asset?
  • Do you have any hobbies that you could incorporate into your PE activity?
  • Activities you’ve heard about – do you find any of them interesting? Would you like to try your hand at them?

Claudia outlined the current SEPnet Strategy:  Core Programme 1: Schools’ Outreach Aim; Core Programme 2: Teacher Continuing Professional Development Aim and Core Programme 3: Public Engagement with Research Aim.

Delegates were made aware of the importance of “public engagement impact” for REF/KEF and how “the sector needs to recognise and challenge the processes that maintain and perpetuate the elitism of STEM. Widening participation in STEM requires changes in power relations and cannot be achieved by continuing with ‘business as usual’.”

Attendees found the workshop “really intriguing” and that there were “a lot of important topics to think about!”

Claudia and the Outreach team look forward to seeing SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers at the next session to be delivered on Wednesday, 22 March 2023 at 12:00-15:30.  This will be in the format of an interactive workshop at the IOP in Kings Cross, London for 25 SEPnet delegates and will allow space to discuss their own research and form ideas for engagement. SEPnet Outreach and Public Engagement officers will lead and facilitate this session, using their experience and working with attendees to create impactful engagement plans. There will also be guidance on how to evaluate and evidence engagement, which is particularly important in the context of REF.  SEPnet PGRs can register here by 10 March 2023.


GRADnet Induction Day 26 October 2022 welcomes new PhD Students!

Over 100 new SEPnet PhD students attended the GRADnet Induction Day on Wednesday, 26 October 2022 at One Park Crescent in central London.

Attendees were introduced to the three strands of SEPnet:  Employability, Outreach and GRADnet by Professor Jacob Dunningham, Executive Director, SEPnet. 

Tariq Himli, Postgraduate Researcher, University of Surrey, talked about his SEPnet Summer Placement at Occuity.  It was an 8-week placement setting up Monte-Carlo tolerance analysis tool.  The work involved interfacing between his own code and software for analysis and bringing ideas into a multidisciplinary group.  Tariq outlined why the placement was useful; he learned a lot about how software works; how to run them through code only; nice intro to industry work in general and it was a funded break from his PhD!

Laura Fryer, Postgraduate Researcher, University of Southampton also completed a summer placement this year at Openshaw & Co, Patent Attorneys.  Laura researched state of the art technologies; analysed patent documents and assessed whether inventions were new and inventive; prepared detailed documents of new inventions and made logical arguments as well as drafted responses to letters from the UK patent office.  Delegates heard how the hands-on experience was interesting and how Laura gained an understanding of what types of jobs and roles she might enjoy.  The placement was an opportunity to experience working in industry without leaving academia; it broadened her skillset and showed adaptability. 

Four parallel workshops were on offer:

  • DISCnet Taster Session: Introduction to Machine Learning using ATLAS Open Data delivered by Dr Kate Shaw, Lecturer, Dr Thomas Stevenson, Research Fellow and Zoë Earnshaw, Postgraduate Researcher, Physics and Astronomy, School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Sussex;
  • Introduction to basic Python & Introduction to Scientific Python delivered by Dr Tim Kinnear, Lecturer in Computational Astrophysics, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kent;
  • How to get your research published delivered by Tom Sharp and Rob Freeman, Institute of Physics;
  • Science Communication Skills delivered by Dr Claudia Antolini, SEPnet – The Ogden Trust Senior Officer for Outreach and Public Engagement, Royal Holloway University of London and Nuala O’Flynn, SEPnet/Ogden Physics Outreach and Public Engagement Officer at University of Hertfordshire.

Thank you to all our contributors for making this event a success this year.

After two years of online delivery due to the pandemic it was great to be back in person at One Park Crescent and having the opportunity to meet this year’s cohort of SEPnet PhD students face to face.  Everyone enjoyed meeting their fellow PGRs and found the workshops really useful.  

Hope to see some of you at a future GRADnet event.  See here for our training programme for 2022-23.

Science Communication Skills; Python; IOP How to get your research published and DISCnet workshops:


Why the GRADnet Summer School surpassed any expectations!

Mariana Bento, National Physical Laboratory Postgraduate Institute and UCL Postgraduate Researcher talks about her experience at the GRADnet Summer School 4-5 July 2022 at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex:

“The SEPnet Summer School surpassed any expectations I had for this 2-day event. Becoming a good professional or researcher, is not just about being an expert in the field. It requires a full set of complementary skills, which comprises good communication, networking, awareness of our surroundings, collaboration, problem solving.

SEPnet knows this and collaborated with NPL, Skillfluence and employers:  Airbus; Capco; Deloitte; Dyad and WP Thompson, to provide an interesting and insightful number of workshops and sessions.  Topics ranged from having a better understanding of how to break the communication wall; finding the common points when starting a conversation with a new person to the foresighting topic which equipped us with developing skills on how to pick up the hints of the current events to better analyse possible future outcomes and perform better decisions.

When one brings together a group of knowledgeable and interesting people as was the case with the summer school event, the result can only be the best.

I had an amazing time during these two days.”

Foresighting workshop breakout group:

Intellectual Property Rights; NPL and Airbus Workshops:

Careers panellists:  Dr Adam Bozson, (Ex RHUL), Head of Data Science, Dyad;  Dr Leon Schoonderwoerd, (Ex Kent), Deloitte, Assistant Manager;  Jenika Karsan, Capco, Global Marketing Campaigns Project Manager; Dr Aoife Ivory, Senior Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Ultrasound and Acoustics Group and Dr Hibaaq Mohamud, Higher Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Nuclear Metrology Group. 


First F2F GRADnet Summer School in 3 Years! 

The GRADnet Summer School took place on 4-5 July 2022 at the National Physical Laboratory for the first time since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  It was great to be networking and socialising once again with researchers and employers.

Thank you to all our contributors for providing an amazing programme over the 2-day event:

NPL Welcome:  Richard Brown, Head of Metrology, National Physical Laboratory and Prof Jacob Dunningham, SEPnet Executive Director.

Networking Skills and Translating your Research/PhD skills to Industry sessions:  Zach Sorrells, Chief Technology Officer, Skillfluence Ltd.

Foresighting Workshop:  Dr James Claverly, NPL Head of Gov Relations and Dr Michael Chrubasik, Higher Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Informatics Group. 

Careers Panellists: Dr Adam Bozson, (Ex RHUL), Head of Data Science, Dyad; Dr Aoife Ivory, Senior Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Ultrasound and Acoustics Group; Jenika Karsan, Capco, Global Marketing Campaigns Project Manager; Dr Hibaaq Mohamud, (Ex Surrey), Higher Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Nuclear Metrology Group; Dr Leon Schoonderwoerd, (Ex Kent), Deloitte, Assistant Manager.

Water Rockets and Laboratory Tours:  Andrew Hansen MBE, Outreach Manager and NPL PGI Students.

Employer-led Workshops:

Airbus:  Dr Jamie Wickham-Eade, (Ex Portsmouth), Study Manager and Systems Engineer; Ciaran Jenkins, Graduate Spacecraft Systems Engineer in the Earth Observation and Science Department and Michael Skreta, Systems Engineer in the Future Programmes.

NPL Metrology: Dr Emma Bendall, Research Scientist; Mariana Bento, Postgraduate Institute; Anu Bhaisare, Assistant Research Scientist; Nuclear Metrology Group; David Fairweather, Postgraduate Institute; Svetlana Kolmogorova, Nuclear Metrology Group and Dr Ben Russell, Principal Research Scientist and Science Area Leader for the Nuclear Metrology Group: 

Intellectual Property Rights:  Dr Julian Potter, Partner and Matt England,Trainee Patent Attorney, WP Thompson.

Delegates really enjoyed this year’s event:

  • “Thanks for organising a really enjoyable and productive couple of days”
  • “Great opportunity to improve ‘soft’ skills”
  • “NPL was the ideal location for the event, both because of its historical contributions to our field, but also NPL’s willingness to show us around their labs and describe their research.”
  • “My favourite aspect of the summer school were the people! Discussed not only our research, but also views on life and our past stories; the right ingredients for some new long-term friends!  Again, thank you for doing this so we could crawl outside our labs and learn so much about new skills and new people.

Hope to see more postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers at next year’s summer school in 2023!

Water rocket launch pad and rocket construction!

Skillfluence session: Translating your PhD research skills to industry


4th Joint SEPnet and WRIPA Workshop


The Future of Physics Teaching

New ways of teaching, assessing and embedding employabilty and equality

Thursday 30 June 2022, Institute of Physics, London.

Recent challenges, including the pandemic and changes within HE, have had a dramatic impact on undergraduate teaching, future skills needs and the world of work.
The IOP’s recent new research on the critical role of physics skills reveals that while they underpin productive industries in every part of the UK, there is still significant unmet demand for these skills which is impacting employers’ ability to grow and innovate.
In this context SEPnet and WRIPA are hosting a one-day workshop to explore how physics teaching and assessment can change to equip students from all backgrounds with skills and knowledge for future labour markets.
We will hear how the IOP will support academics to make changes to their teaching and assessment to encourage innovation and meet new accreditation requirements, We will also share best practice examples, in physics and other disciplines, on how to effectively ebbed curricular employabilty skills and implement equality, diversity and inclusion to ensure under-represented student realise their career potential.

Organised by:

Claire Hepwood, Employer Liaison Director, South East Physics Network (SEPnet)

Dr Andrew Hirst, WRIPA Manager, Department of Physics, University of York

Beth Medley, Employability and Placement Officer, White Rose Industrial Physics Academy (WRIPA), Department of Physics, University of York


Chaired by Professor Sir William Wakeham
The new IOP accreditation process – more flexibility in curriculum design
How do we get the balance right between employability, skills and academic rigor and encourage innovation while also ensuring compliance with accreditation? Are they two different things?
Robyn Henriegel, Accreditation and Professional Standards Manager, Institute of Physics

More information on the IOP Degree Accreditation Framework

Effective blended and hybrid learning in HE
How do we support staff in adopting inclusive and engaging teaching practices that promote success for all students?
Dr Catherine (Kay) Hack, Principal Adviser (Learning and Teaching) Advance-HE
Learning from Engineering
Can we equip physics students with problem-solving, resilience and teamworking skills through real-world group projects?
How do we avoid siloed learning? Is programme-level teaching or portfolio assessment the answer?
Professor Danielle George, Associate VP and Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering, University of Manchester
How we deliver effective online learning
Can technology be used to replace experimental work in the first two years of a physics degree?
How does online learning design in modular physics teaching enhance the student experience, employability outcomes and close disability gaps?
What impact does tuition and assessment strategy have on outcomes in level 1 / 2 physics modules?
Dr Helen Jane Fraser, Director of Research and Senior Lecturer in Astronomy, School of Physical Sciences, The Open University
 How do we assess now?
How have departments modified assessments following the loss of invigilated tests and examinations?
What interventions and new ideas will transform assessment?
Dr Nicolas Labrosse, Senior Lecturer (Physics and Astronomy), University of Glasgow
How to implement a physics-related micro placement module into a physics degree
Focusing on the benefits for both students and employers
Dr Samantha Pugh, Associate Professor in STEM Education, University of Leeds
How can we diversify our physics intake?
Can data become a barrier to progress?
• Tackling the gender and attainment gap.
Professor Brad Gibson, Head of Department of Physics and Mathematics, University of Hull
Working with businesses to improve the employability of under-represented students in STEM
How are universities supporting disabled students to find jobs?
• How do we prepare under-represented students for the labour market?
• Engaging students and breaking down barriers
Emily Huns, Head of Careers and Entrepreneurship, University of Sussex


GRADnet Online Workshop: The Application of Neural networks to Image Recognition – really insightful!

On 19 and 20 May over 30 postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers attended the GRADnet online workshop:  The Application of Neural networks to Image Recognition.

The course was aimed at anyone interested in modern data science and AI.  The focus was the implementation (in Python) of neural networks and applying them in order to classify images. Delegates were taught how to first build some simple networks with a few convolutional layers, then how to exploit popular deep neural networks such as Xception, VGG16, Resnet and MobileNet.  

Thank you to Dr Michal Gnacik, Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at University of Portsmouth who designed and delivered the course on behalf of GRADnet.  

Attendees had the opportunity to look at the transfer-learning and hyper-parameters tuning and how to use them to achieve high-accuracy predictions.  Comet ML was used to track, compare, explain, and optimize their experiments.   Kaggle image datasets helped recognise emotions from the images of people’s faces and delegates looked at how deep learning can be used in converting speech to text using established systems such as DeepSpeech or Silero.

Delegates found the course “really interesting” and “useful”.  One student said “Thank you so much for the course. It has been really insightful and I can’t wait to have a go at the exercises!”.

GRADnet and the School of Mathematics and Physics at Portsmouth plan to collaborate once again and run this course in person in 2022-23!  Look out for the GRADnet Training Programme 2022-23 which will be launched in September.




GRADnet Workshop: “A guide to virtual networking” incredibly useful!

GRADnet is delighted to be collaborating again with Skillfluence to deliver professional skills courses to SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to help them develop their transferrable skills in the workplace. 

Thank you to Dr Hannah Roberts who delivered a 3-hour workshop over two afternoons on 10 & 17 May to help postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to:

  • Set up a main professional social media platform and have an all-star profile using scaffolding templates.
  • Consciously expand their network in under 15 minutes per day and become visible.
  • Learn how to introduce themselves and follow-up on opportunities using simple easy to follow scripts whilst maintaining integrity.
  • Measure and test their progress to ensure the time spent on social media is paying dividends.

Attendees found the workshop “very informative”, a “great help” and “incredibly useful”.

Hannah is a career coach and professional skills trainer. During her extensive academic and industrial career, she took research from concept to start-up. Since 2018, she has been a qualified and regulated coach; trained in Talent Dynamics profiling. Specialising in team dynamics, career planning, online networking and social media skills, research planning, commercialisation and management tools. Hannah has a particular passion for diversity and inclusion and women’s leadership development.

Next year GRADnet will be offering an online 1-day workshop on “Social Media for Researchers” on 7 February 2023.  Look out for our 2022-23 Training Programme which will be launched in September 2022.



There are reasons girls don’t study physics – and they don’t include not liking maths

SEPnet Director of Outreach and Public Engagement, Dr Olivia Keenan, and Senior Outreach Fellow at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, Dr Jen Gupta have authored an article for The Conversation outlining SEPnet’s response to the comments made recently to the Commons Science and Technology Committee on girls and Physics. 

Olivia and Jen lay out the evidence around girls aptitude in physics and maths and discuss the research into the real reasons fewer girls than boys pursue physics to A-level and beyond. 

Please share this article with your networks to raise the importance of this issue. The full article can be read through The Conversation


GRADnet Astrobiology and Planetary Science Workshop: Mars Rover fun!

The Astrobiology and Planetary Science workshop took place on 20-21 April 2022 at the Open University in Milton Keynes for SEPnet postgraduate researchers.

Thank you to Dr Matt Balme who led the workshop and his colleagues at the OU and Mars Yard:  Geoff Austin, Alex Barrett, Richard Busutil, Simone Cogliati, Elena Favaro, Paul Streeter and Susanne Schwenzer.

Thank you to Frances Westall, Director of Research at the Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire Equipe Exobiologie,  who gave a lecture on “Mars Astrobiology” and Professor Sanjeev Gupta, Imperial College London, for his talk on “Perseverance Rover mission”.

An evening dinner was held for delegates and academics to network after a long absence of face-to-face events due to the pandemic.

Delegates found the workshop “interesting, good fun, challenging and very rewarding”.  “The best part of it was being actively involved in the actions of the Mars rover in the Mars yard and working with people as part of a team. The lectures were very good as well.”

GRADnet is looking forward to hosting more residential workshops in the future! Look out for an announcement in September for details of our training programme for 2022-2023!