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Culture, history and society

Women in Physics Group

This is an IOP special interest group, which is a community of IOP members focused on a particular discipline, application or area of interest. 

Special interest groups allow members to connect and share knowledge and ideas. The IOP funds groups to deliver a range of activities including events, prizes and bursaries. All of our groups are driven by members.  

About the group

As a special interest, member-driven group, we encourage group members to participate in the IOP’s activities and support career progress with professional development.

We reflect the varied careers of women physicists in:

  • industry
  • teaching
  • research
  • academia
  • commerce

What the group does

Our current interests include:

  • career breaks
  • career management workshops
  • networking in the UK and Europe
  • education at primary, secondary and tertiary level
  • women in research and academia – especially those on short-term contracts

We welcome new members and suggestions for future events. Come and join us to contribute to our discussions.

Socialise, network and find out more about our group on Facebook.

What does it mean to be a member of the group?

  • part of community
  • visibility and access to tailored resources and opportunities
  • attend events and share relevant resources and events with your network

What does it mean to be a member of the committee?

  • volunteer to organise and support committee
  • represent and advocate WiP and diversity to IOP as a whole
  • run tailored events throughout the year

Joining an IOP special interest group

For non-IOP members: Become a member now

For IOP members: Find out how to join a group

Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize

This award was established as a Women in Physics Group Prize in 2007 and was originally known as the Very Early Career Female Physicist Award. In 2016 Council incorporated the award into the IOP awards programme and subsequently renamed it the Jocelyn Bell Burnell Medal and Prize.

The award is for women at the start of their careers who have made a substantial contribution to physics and who support and encourage others in the field.

The prize is £1,000. The winner also receives a bronze medal and a certificate.

An annual in-person celebratory ceremony is held where finalists are invited to present their work and winners are announced.

Nominees for the award must:

  • be women
  • have completed their first undergraduate (bachelor’s or master’s) degree in physics less than five years ago (not including career breaks)
  • be making a substantial contribution to physics
  • be working to support and encourage others in the field
  • be working in a physics-based role e.g. researcher, graduate trainee or teacher, or engaged in postgraduate study in physics
  • have their undergraduate degree listed on We consider nominees with non-UK degrees on a case-by-case basis

Learn about previous winners

Annual conference and events

Find events for the Women in Physics Group

Previous events

Networking with Leading Influencers within the Physics Community

Wednesday 18 May 2022

An afternoon aimed at inspiring, promoting, supporting and motivating young people to work towards achieving their goals in a post-Covid world where science has really come to the fore and into the public psyche in a manner never seen before.

The Culture of and Naming of SI Units 

Monday 25 April 2022

Have you ever thought about why measuring standards are useful? We have units of measure that are convenient (the tea spoon, a pint, the centimetre), fundamental constants (the speed of light, Planck’s constant and many others), and measurement standards that are now called SI units. Would we have been able to make the discoveries in physics without this process of standardisation? Have these units of measure been fairly attributed to the discovery teams and how do differing cultures see this? Are we missing anything?

Physics and the Green Economy

24 November 2021

The group supported the week-long Physics and the Green Economy conference that was held alongside the UN Climate Change Conference (Cop26) in Glasgow. 

Find out more about the session and the whole conference

JBB Prize event 2021

26 October 2021

We hosted a fully virtual Jocelyn Bell Burnell Prize event in 2021 to celebrate the finalists of this prestigious IOP medal. Each finalist gave an overview of their work, and we also heard from a previous winner to inspire as to what could be next for them!

Find out more about the prize

Returner event: ‘Planning Your Return from a Physics Career Break and the Support Available’

19 May 2021

The group hosted a virtual event to help those planning on returning to a physics career, with lots of information on the support available.

We shared what the IOP currently does to support career returners, held a discussion about what career returners feel the IOP could do further to support them, had a brilliant talk from the Open University on how to plan your return, and ended with a Q&A.

Useful resources that were discussed include:

The IOP Concessionary rate, CPD recording and opportunities to continue professional registration whilst you are not professionally active.

There are also groups and volunteering opportunities to keep your skills going.

And the Carer’s Fund for financial support, including legal and financial discounts.

External resources:

Lunchtime IOP Webinar Series – Career and skills opportunities for physicists in the nuclear sector

20-24 July 2020

Hosted by this and the Nuclear Industry groups and with support from the Physics Communicators Group, each day had a theme speaker (up to 30 minutes) on career pathways, skills and inclusivity with contributions.

Read the article about the series, Heat, energy and diverse ways of thinking (PDF, 368KB) 

Getting Back into the Workplace

Tuesday 30 April 2019

A one-day meeting for women returning to the workplace after a career break with hands-on support and advice on returning to paid employment.

Employers and experts offered practical guidance on:

  • confidence building
  • goal setting
  • identifying skills and possible career paths
  • updating CVs
  • using LinkedIn and social media

The day included:

  • mock interviews by employers
  • information on schemes to help people return to work
  • open-panel discussion and networking

Find out more about the event (PDF, 479KB)


Download the programme to learn more about the event (PDF, 135MB).

Tweets from the day: #IOPReturntowork2019

The Lives and Times of Pioneering Women in Physics

4 March 2015


Download the agenda for more information (PDF, 135KB)

Newsletters and physics publications


Useful links

Committee and contacts

Chair Miss Dawn Watson, CPhys FInstP
Secretary Dr Josie Coltman, CPhys MInstP
Treasurer Dr Tracey Berry, MInstP
Co-opted Member Dr John Bruun, CPhys MInstP
Ordinary Member Miss Katherine Chippendale, MInstP
Ordinary Member Miss Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, MInstP
Ordinary Member Miss Avril Jackson, MInstP
Ordinary Member Miss Jannat Khan, MInstP
Ordinary Member Dr Jessica Maclean, MInstP
Ordinary Member Miss Carly Muldoon, MInstP
Ordinary Member Dr Juna Sathian, MInstP
Ordinary Member Mrs Rizwana Shelley, CPhys MInstP
Ordinary Member Dr Sarah Williams, MInstP
Early Career Physicist Mx Charlotte Vale, MInstP

Email: [email protected]

Advisory panel members 

Professor Dame S Jocelyn Bell Burnell

DBE FRS FRSE. Former President of the Institute of Physics (2008 to 2010), University of Oxford

Professor Philippa Browning

Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester

Professor Dame Athene Donald

DBE FRS. Professor of Experimental Physics, University of Cambridge

Professor Brian R Fulton

Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, University of York, Chair of the IOP Juno Panel

Dr Barbara J Gabrys

University of Oxford, Chair of the IOP Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Professor Gillian Gehring

OBE. Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Sheffield, Team Leader ICWIP 2002, EPWS BoA to 2009

Professor Helen Gleeson

OBE. Cavendish Professor of Physics, University of Leeds

Professor Dame Julia Higgins

DBE FRS FREng. Emeritus Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London

Professor Jessica James

Commerzbank, Head of Quantitative Solutions

Professor Averil Macdonald

FRSA. Professor of Science Communication, University of Reading

Professor Peter Main

Head of Department of Physics, Institute of Physics

Professor Andrew Randewich

Chief Scientist, AWE

Professor Elaine Seddon

University of Manchester and Cockcroft Institute Daresbury

Dr Uschi Steigenberger

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory STFC 

Elizabeth Whitelegg

Open University

Professor Julia Yeomans

University of Oxford, Team leader ICWiP 2005, EPS Council

The Physics Benevolent Fund

Support for members, or their dependants, during unemployment, ill-health or a career break.

Find out more about the fund

IOP Carers' Fund

Up to £250 for members who could not otherwise go to an event or conference because they are a parent or carer.

Find out more about the fund

Dismantling barriers to inclusion in physics

We’re working to ensure that young people from currently under-represented and underserved groups in physics get the chances they deserve.

Join us