Communicating physics

1 November 2018

Last month, Imperial College London presented their Ogden Prize for Excellence in Communicating Physics in Schools. This year's recipient was second year physics undergraduate Katarzyna (Kasia) Kowalczyk.

The Communicating Physics Course is an optional module within the undergraduate physics programme at Imperial and the prize is supported by the Trust as part of our efforts to encourage more students to consider a career in physics teaching. This year, 17 students completed the course, which includes a school placement, and all were eligible for the £250 prize which recognises outstanding achievement.

“Communicating Physics was a very valuable module for me,” explains this year’s winner, Kasia. “It allowed me to experience the challenges, responsibilities and, of course, rewards of being a physics teacher. Undertaking educational research was very different from what I knew from physics labs. However, I am convinced it will benefit me, not only if I decide to become a teacher, but as a future scientist. It demonstrated the incredible importance and difficulty of translating the complexity of physics to the general public and how much work has to be done by any scientist to inspire other people to engage in science. I am honoured to have been chosen for this award, and I want to thank Dr Vijay Tymms, Dr Helen Brindley and all the teachers in St Marylebone's for their continuous support.”

Dr Vijay Tymms, is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Physics at ICL, and one of the lecturers for this module. He has high praise for this year's winner:“While Kasia’s basic approach to the placement was in itself impressive by being markedly mature and forward thinking, what further made the work stand out was her extraordinary industriousness, resourcefulness and ability to cope with setbacks in the classroom,” explains Vijay. “Her academic guide was extremely impressed with her classroom management and we were all amazed by the breadth and depth of work she had completed at the oral presentations.

“It was great to see that at the end of the day there was indeed some evidence that the girls Kasia had worked with were now more engaged in their physics studies. Kasia has been a credit to herself and Imperial; her positive impact at St Marylebone has been remarkable. We are delighted to award her the Ogden Prize for this year,” concludes Vijay.

Kasia received her prize from Ogden Chief Executive, Clare Harvey: “It was fantastic to attend this event and meet this year's prize-winner, Kasia. She showed great aptitude for teaching throughout her placement and carried out an interesting project on learning styles. We hope this prize will encourage her to think about physics teaching as a career and if so, this experience will certainly have given her a head start. Inspirational teachers are so important in developing a love of learning; specialist physics teachers can really bring the subject to life and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

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