Girls inspired by physics at London school

4 August 2015

On 25 June, 233 Year Eight girls experienced eight hands-on workshops to show them both the fun side of physics and something of the career opportunities that studying physics can open up.

Girls inspired by physics at London school

The occasion was the Institute of Physics (IOP) London and South East Branch’s Physics at Work event at Plumstead Manor Girls’ School in South East London.

The event formed part of the IOP’s drive to increase the proportion of 16- to 19-year-olds studying physics, and in particular increase the proportion of girls. Currently, only around a fifth of students taking A-level physics are female1.

On the day the girls took part in workshops hosted by The Engineering Development Trust, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, University of Kent’s School of Physical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London’s School of Physics and Astronomy, CRA Risk Analysis, and CISCO Systems Ltd.

Each workshop showed how many jobs, careers and industries use physics every day. Surrey Satellite’s workshop, for example, showed, in a hands-on interaction, that understanding how a gyroscope works is crucial when building the satellites that underpin modern-day communication devices like the mobile phone. Cisco Systems, on the other hand, revealed in an interactive manner, something of the processes within a computing environment and how students can enter rewarding careers in physics through apprenticeships.

The aim of the school’s collaboration with the IOP is to open up the excitement, joy and wonder involved in learning about physics – enabling the students to envision pursuing a career in STEM. Despite recent increases in the number of students deciding to study science, maths and engineering at university there remains an annual shortfall of around 40,000 STEM graduates in the UK2.

When speaking about the event, the IOP London and South East Branch Chair, Dr Mark Telling, said: “It’s really good to see the IOP London and South East Branch getting involved at the grassroots level and running another physics at work event3. We have to keep working hard to try and get more young people involved in STEM and encourage them to pursue a career in science and engineering.

“You never know, we might just have a future Nobel Prize winner here today.”

Head of Plumstead Manor School, Douglas Greig added: “Here at Plumstead Manor School we believe that providing students with the chance to work alongside experts and to learn from professionals is an important way to empower young people and raise their aspirations. We want our students to develop into confident young women who can branch out into fields such as physics and engineering where they are massively underrepresented at the moment. That’s why we are really happy that the IOP is working with us to help make these connections and to open up doors for our students to consider fields of study and areas of work they may never have imagined.    Promoting such opportunity and nurturing young minds are just some of the hallmarks of the education we provide here and we’re delighted to work with IOP on this project.”


  1. This is taken from an IOP report, It’s Different for Girls: The influence of schools
  2. The Social Market Foundation recently calculated that despite recent increases, there remains an annual shortfall of around 40,000 STEM graduates in the UK. To address this, a 50% increase in the current number of STEM graduates in the UK is needed
  3. The IOP London and South East Branch previously ran physics at work event at Walderslade Girls’ School on 9 July 2014

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