Celebrating Excellence in Public Engagement: Oxford Physics Researchers Receive Awards
20 October 2023
Public Engagement - case study Public Engagement - news
Huge congratulations to Dr Laurence Wroe, Prof Alan Barr and collaborators for their awards, and their colleagues Dr Thomas Hird and Dr Katherine Shirley for being highly commended at the SEPnet and IRIS awards. Read more about their achievements here.
The University of Oxford's Department of Physics has reason to celebrate as researchers in the department and their collaborators have received prestigious awards in the South East Physics Network (SEPnet) Public Engagement Awards 2023 and Institute of Research in Schools Awards. Additionally, two of their colleagues were highly commended.
Dr. Laurence Wroe: Newcomer Award Recipient
We are thrilled to share that Dr. Laurence Wroe, an Oxford alumnus and now Senior Fellow at CERN, was awarded the Newcomer Award. This accolade recognises his outstanding contribution to public engagement with his innovative workshop titled "Funky Drums and Particle Accelerators." Dr. Wroe's workshop drew intriguing parallels between radio frequency cavities in particle accelerators and the vibrational modes of drums. Targeted at 11-14-year-old state school students, the workshop aimed to inspire an interest in post-16 STEM study. He even had nine bespoke Bodhran drums created, designed to mimic the shape of RF cavities, as presented in his scientific paper. Dr. Wroe's dedication reached some 300 young individuals across four Oxfordshire schools, with a clear and measurable positive impact on their science capital. His achievement has rightfully earned him the Newcomer Award.
Dr. Sian Tedaldi, Outreach Programmes Manager, shared her delight, stating, "At Oxford, we work really hard to foster a culture of bringing our transformative research to life for as many people as possible. I am absolutely delighted that Laurence has been recognised with this award. His Funky Drums public engagement project is exemplary from planning and delivery to evaluation and ensuring a legacy. Congratulations!"
Dr Wroe's project came about as a result of the doctoral student training programme provided by the department, and further supported by funds from the University's Public Engagement with Research Seed Funds.
Dr. Thomas Hird and Dr. Katherine Shirley: Highly Commended
In the same awards, Dr. Thomas Hird and Dr. Katherine Shirley, both Postdoctoral Research Assistants, were highly commended. Dr. Hird's sustained excellence in engaging various audiences with research and Dr. Shirley's invaluable support for public engagement within their department and research group were acknowledged. Their passion for communication and dedication to outreach activities were apparent in their ten-year track record. Dr. Hird had made significant contributions in quantum technologies outreach, and Dr. Shirley curated a versatile toolkit of activities to facilitate engagement with planetary science. Both of them embody the culture of public engagement with research that we foster at the Department of Physics.
Kathrine Shirley was also been awarded an MPLS Impact Award for Public Engagement with Research earlier this year.
Big Data: ATLAS - A Double Triumph
The Big Data: ATLAS project, led by Professor Alan Barr, received not one but two awards. The partnership between the Department of Physics, the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), and the Particle Physics Department at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) secured the Outstanding Partner award at the IRIS Awards and the Partnership Award at the SEPnet Public Engagement with Research Awards.
These awards recognised their exceptional collaboration that allows students aged 16+ from UK state schools to work with real data from proton-proton collisions at CERN's ATLAS detector. The project, running over 30 weeks, imparts valuable analytical and coding skills used by particle physicists, with the students working on real physics data. Notably, the partnership has enabled 24 schools and 275 students, mostly from state schools, to engage in authentic particle physics research.
The project wouldn't have been possible without the hard work and dedication of a team of DPhil students Eimear Conroy, Ludo Fraser-Taliente, Ynyr Harris and Alessandro Ruggiero, Postdoctoral Research Assistants Dr Thomas Hird and Dr Koichi Nagai and Outreach Programmes Manager Dr Sian Tedaldi.
This recognition is a testament to their commitment to pushing the boundaries of what school pupils can achieve.
Click here to read the REF Impact Case Study based on on the related Higgs Hunters project led by Professor Alan Barr.
Dr Sian Tedaldi, Outreach Programmes Manager at the Department of Physics said, "we are delighted to see our researchers' dedication to public engagement with science being acknowledged and celebrated. These awards reflect our commitment to making transformative research accessible and inspiring for all."
Congratulations to Dr. Laurence Wroe, Dr. Thomas Hird, Dr. Katherine Shirley, and Professor Alan Barr and the Big Data: ATLAS team for their outstanding contributions to public engagement and education in the field of physics.
SEPnet, the South East Physics Network, is a collaborative effort of six universities in the south-east of England dedicated to delivering excellence in physics. Click here to read more about SEPnet.
The Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) is an organisation that promotes and supports student involvement in real scientific research. Click here to read more about IRIS.
The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is one of the national scientific research laboratories in the UK, specialising in various scientific disciplines, including particle physics.
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