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Students rose to the challenge

Published: 21 August 2020

The physics outreach officers at the universities of York, Leeds, and Sheffield have collaborated on a virtual work experience programme, thanks to funding from The Ogden Trust.

One hundred and twenty-seven Year 12 students from schools across the UK took part in the White Rose Virtual Work Experience programme which allowed them to spend a week engaging with academic research. The programme helped the students to build confidence, develop communication skills and encouraged them to think about studying physics at undergraduate level.

“It was great learning about the exciting wonders of the universe from head of departments and lecturers, [it] gives me more passion in physics”

An image of a laser beam

“We felt it was crucial to continue to offer opportunities for students to engage with universities when the education process had been disrupted so much in recent months,” explains Katherine Leech from York, who worked with Ogden outreach officers at Leeds and Sheffield to bring the programme together. “The project built on successful work experience programmes already offered by the collaborating universities,” explains Katherine. “The grant from The Trust made it possible for a virtual proposition in the exceptional circumstances we all faced.”

The virtual work experience week took place in July. During the week, 127 participants worked with an academic staff member on a research area. Participants were supported by sessions on how to read a journal article, how to produce a conference poster, and a data analysis session themed around astrophysics. Using what they had learnt, the students then reviewed journal articles and produced a conference-style poster, which they shared in small virtual groups at the end of the week. The students took part in live question forums and interactive activities each day; they then continued to work on their projects independently.

“The discussion with the researchers … gave me an opportunity to ask about what they were working on, it gave me an insight into what a career in physics could look like.”

“We were really pleased with how the event went in challenging circumstances. Feedback was really good and showed that we made a positive contribution to the participants’ views on physics and their interest in studying the subject at university,” concludes Katherine.

“I was unsure about what sort of thing I would enjoy studying and the course offered a really good perspective to what studying physics to the end of a university course is like.”

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