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Honorary Fellows: Dr Mark Richards

Dr Mark Richards for inspiring contributions, advocacy and commitment to increasing equity in physics, including the development of the UK’s first network of Black physicists: the Blackett Lab Family.

Dr Mark Richards has dedicated his career to inspiring young people into physics through his science education, outreach and public engagement activities. Throughout his career, he has particularly demonstrated his unrelenting support to Black scientists and was instrumental in creating a network of Black physicists across the UK, thus transforming the recruitment and retention of these individuals within science.

Black students, particularly those of Caribbean heritage, have always been significantly underrepresented in physics. In 2006, when Richards began his work in STEM education and outreach, there were only around 250 Black students studying physics A-level across the whole of the UK. At university level, there was rarely more than one Black student per year. To challenge this, he dedicated his time to meaningful outreach efforts and evidence-based initiatives for increasing representation, as well as leading international efforts to make academia more inclusive and equitable.

Whether setting up work experience and outreach programmes, developing physics masterclasses, or representing the UK while exploring different outreach initiatives abroad, Richard’s activities have reached thousands of state-school pupils and have had a huge impact on the number Black people studying physics at A-level and beyond. More than a decade on since he began his career, almost 1500 black pupils now study physics at A-level in England, a six-fold increase, thanks in no small part to Richards.

Alongside this, Richards founded the Blackett Lab Family, the UK’s preeminent organization devoted to Black physicists, which aims to represent, connect and inspire others in the community to engage with physics. The organisation works to strengthen opportunities for Black British physicists, developing activities and programmes that highlight the scientific contributions of Black researchers. To build a better research community, Richards has focused on early career physicists, undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as those who have left academia. These interactions allow him to identify the barriers they might face, which he uses to engage distinguished Black physicists from around the world to address these challenges through mentorship and placements. Through highlighting, celebrating and giving a voice to an underrepresented group, Richards is inspiring the next generation of scientists in the UK and beyond. He has also acted as equity consultant for numerous science education programmes and is currently working with the Institute of Physics on the development of resources to diversify the undergraduate curriculum and ways to integrate these resources into the physics curriculum.