As an Ogden outreach officer at Queen Mary’s School of Physics & Astronomy, I have completely overhauled the direction of outreach and public engagement to make it as meaningful and impactful as possible, as well as instigating measures to raise their profile at all levels within the department.
Over the years, I have realised that longer-term, deeper outreach programmes that interact with both young people and those that influence them are much more effective than short one-off interventions. The Physics Research in School Environments (PRiSE) programme that I developed is the perfect example of this.
PRiSE works with more than 30 London schools each year, focusing particularly on those students from backgrounds under-represented in higher education and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). The programme sees these schools undertaking six-month independent research projects based on cutting-edge physics research. Students and teachers are supported by active researchers through introductory workshops and school visits throughout, with the finished projects being presented at a conference held at Queen Mary.
The programme has built students’ confidence in science, developing skills not typically encountered within school, and has had lasting impacts on their physics aspirations; teachers develop new lesson content, skills and mentoring, gain confidence in discussing research and raise their school’s STEM profile by sharing students’ work.
In 2019, it was shortlisted in the Times Higher Education Award's Widening Participation and Outreach Initiative of the Year category.
I have presented the programme to the Ogden outreach network as well as at national and international conferences such as the National Astronomy Meeting, European Geosciences Union, and American Geophysical Union. The programme’s model is now being adopted by several other institutions (including several affiliated with the Ogden Trust) applied to their own areas of research.
Being an Ogden outreach officer has played a part in launching the next stage of my career, having recently been awarded a prestigious UKRI Stephen Hawking Fellowship at Imperial College London which will see me combine cutting-edge space research with public engagement activities that bring this work to communities that don’t usually appreciate or seek out science.
Dr Martin Archer