The business of fellowship

Fellowship of the Institute of Physics isn’t reserved for those in academia.

It’s relevant for those in industry, business and government just as much as for physicists working in universities. Two recently elected fellows explain:

“I wasn’t quite sure at first that I fit the mould,” says Mark Stevenson, a Physicist at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, “because the work I do is not principally academic. However, academia is not the only route to fellowship.”

The AWE is supportive of Fellowship of the IOP for its employees: “At AWE we have a head of profession for Physics,” says Mark. “There are quite a few fellows around the place and they’re quite active. It’s impressed upon us that Fellowship is a good thing to strive for.”

Proving worth
Mark’s background has always been in industry and defence. “I spent the first 17 years of my working life in laser operation,” he explains. “I got a few publications and a patent. Then I worked on plasma physics.

“I haven’t produced the number of papers of someone working in academia for the same length of time. However, in some cases the scientific value of the work we do at major international facilities is greater.

“This can be harder to quantify, because a lot of our work at AWE is classified and you have to rely more on the type of job we’re doing, the amount of money and staff managed.”

The value of fellowship
Mark has only recently become a fellow, but he’s already found it’s boosted his profile. “I regard fellowship as a recognition by my peers of my contribution to the field. It’s very nice to get that.”

And what about the application process? “I found it remarkably easy and painless. It only took me four weeks in total. However, there was 27 years of background work required!”

Recognition and reward
Peter Batchelor is Head of Electronics and Photonics at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and another recently elected fellow. He agrees that physicists who work in industry and business deserve the recognition of fellowship just as much as those in academia.

“Over the past decade I’ve been key to developing industrial policy to exploit opportunities offered by emerging sectors such as photonics and plastic electronics,” he says. “In 2009, we developed a UK strategy which led among other things to a substantial investment into a plastic electronics commercialisation centre in the North East. It’s turning an emerging technology into industrial benefits and potentially tens of thousands of jobs.

“This is work which deserves recognition just as much as in the academic sector.”

Mark Stevenson, 49, has worked in the defence sector since graduating in Physics and Astrophysics from Queen Elizabeth College London. Peter Batchelor, 60, took his first degree in Physics and Chemistry at the University of East Anglia, and did a PhD at the Sir John Cass College in London.