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IOP’s education and skills VP visits Liverpool to showcase physics

3 November 2022

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright leads delegation in the latest instalment of meetings with members across the UK and Ireland.

An IOP delegation led by vice-president for education and skills, Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, visited Liverpool this week to connect with lecturers, students, the Merseyside branch committee, local government and business leaders and find out how the area is promoting physics and supporting physics education.

First stop on a packed agenda was the University of Liverpool, where the team was greeted by Tim Veal, professor of materials physics. There was a tour of the flint-knapping (cave) room, which allows students to recreate the past, and of the laboratories where second-year students were getting to grips with a range of practical physics experiments.

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, IOP vice-president for education and skills, at the University of Liverpool

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright. Credit: Victoria Tetley

Dr Chris Edmonds, lecturer, explained how their work could be applied when solving real-world problems, for example by using technology for the sensors in smartphones.

Dr Helen Vaughan, senior lecturer at the central teaching laboratories, then outlined how the university is breaking down barriers through its physics outreach programme. She added how physics students can be used “as partners” in collaborations with local business.

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright chatting to Dr Helen Vaughan

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright and Dr Helen Vaughan. Credit: Victoria Tetley

Next, the group headed to the waterfront and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s (LCRCA) offices for a roundtable discussion. Paul Amann, head of learning and skills at LCRCA, highlighted the authority’s efforts to engage youngsters with physics, notably through its Be More portal and app, and through sports.

Also present were Michelle Dow, managing director of All About STEM, Gill Wood, clean growth sector lead at the Liverpool City Region Growth Platform, Annette Lewis, learning business partner at AstraZeneca, and Emma Dickinson, the LCRCA’s principal policy officer, employment and skills. Sarah Bakewell, the IOP’s head of equality, diversity and inclusion and Graham Perrin, IOP influencing and engagement officer for education, joined too.

Paul spoke about how the city had to re-skill much of its workforce after the decline of it famous docks, and that there is still potential for people to re-train in physics-based careers, with an abundance of employers on Merseyside such as Jaguar car building and the Pilkington glass works.

The chat also turned to the ways in which more girls can be encouraged to study physics, one of the aims of the IOP’s Limit Less campaign. Everyone was in agreement that the narrative around physics has to change to become more positive and foster equality, especially among younger students.

A group shot of the IOP delegation at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

L-r: Michelle Dow, Gill Wood, Sarah Bakewell, Graham Perrin, Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, Annette Lewis, Paul Amann, Emma Dickinson. Credit: Victoria Tetley

The day was rounded off with a meal and discussion between Merseyside branch committee members.

Tuesday began at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) with a presentation by Professor Iain Steele, telescope director, on the Liverpool Telescope, a fully robotic machine that has been operational on the Canary Island of La Palma since 2004. It is able to quickly respond to new events in space, such as star explosions, and is a valuable tool for astronomers observing the universe.

A fascinating overview of the university’s £24m New Robotic Telescope, set to be built next to its predecessor, was delivered by Dr Helen Jermak, telescope project scientist at LJMU. Dr Andrzej Piascik, also telescope project scientist at LJMU, showed off the dark room.

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright with Professor Iain Steele demonstrating the Liverpool Telescope

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, with Professor Iain Steele demonstrating the Liverpool Telescope. Credit: Victoria Tetley

Dr Stacey Habergham-Mawson, National Schools’ Observatory (NSO) project manager, then presented on the NSO, started by the university to democratise access to the universe for the scientists of the future and which offers use of the Liverpool Telescope via its website. The NSO has more than 9,000 users and has had 200,000 telescope observation requests since 2004.

Throughout the day Professor Shiho Kobayashi, theoretical astrophysics, LJMU, remained on hand to answer questions about the university’s modern specialist campus (Liverpool Science Park).

Back at the University of Liverpool, enthusiastic students explained their motivations for studying physics, their experiences in STEM education and their hopes for the future. Holly Mansfield, a second-year studying Physics with Medical Applications, wants to become involved with radiotherapy. Joe Renwick, Astrophysics, explained how travel to Australia as part of the course will broaden his horizons.

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright chatting to physics students Henry Wang and James Swarbrick

Henry Wang, University of Liverpool Physics and Medical Physics student, Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright and James Swarbrick, University of Liverpool Physics with Astrophysics student. Credit: Victoria Tetley

Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright said: “I have very much enjoyed meeting staff and students and hearing about the teaching and outreach activities at the University of Liverpool and LJMU. The departments’ and staff’s dedication to teaching and outreach was clear.

“Such passion for encouraging and engaging the next generation of scientists through a commitment to good-quality university teaching, and not just research, is vital to sustaining the UK’s economy and our cutting-edge physics research.”

Both universities run IOP-accredited degree programmes. The visit to Liverpool was the latest in a series organised by the IOP to better connect it to the work being done by members across the UK and Ireland.

A group shot of the IOP Liverpool visit full delegation

The full IOP delegation meeting staff at the University of Liverpool. Credit: Victoria Tetley