Sustainability physics

11 May 2021

Physics can give access to a broad range of career pathways. Showcasing just some of those careers and inspiring young learners is a powerful and compelling way to encourage students to take physics further.

Melissa Lord, Ogden consultant and former teacher, is working with Phil Furneaux (Hon Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University) on an Ogden Trust funded project to develop a web-based resource linking physics, sustainability and the careers which will help us to reach net-zero.

The site is being officially launched at an IOP TalkPhysics CPD event on June 15.

Interviews for the project have mostly been carried out with people working in the north-west of England, with some from further afield; the resources, lessons and learning are relevant across the UK.

Sustainability physics for schools - website

The web-based school resource promotes the application of physics concepts which are developing the technologies to support us on our journey towards zero carbon. The site features interviews with people at the forefront of a low carbon future who use physics in their research and careers and includes a range of ‘homework questions’ on themes such as transport, construction, storage, heat pumps, quantum physics, and renewables.

Alasdair Robertson is an Operations Analyst at Community Windpower and is featured in the sustainability physics project. “I wanted to work in the renewable energy sector and knew that a strong background in physics would be one way of achieving that goal,” says Alasdair. “I wanted to contribute to reducing the UK's carbon footprint and play a part in slowing down global warming.

“Community Windpower is at the forefront of wind energy development in the UK,” continues Alasdair. “When all our sites are developed and operational – and the wind is blowing – we will provide enough energy to power roughly 500,000 homes. My physics education at school and university set me up with the perfect skills for this role!”

You can read more about Alasdair’s career journey so far in our Phizzi professionals series.

“It has been fascinating talking to people at the forefront of a low carbon future,” says Melissa. “We hope we can encourage teachers to bring these topics into the classroom and in turn inspire the next generation.

“One interview on the website is with Elaine who is working on the infrastructure for electric vehicles, and who talks about our likely future relationship with cars,” continues Melissa. "When Elaine was in my class, the job she has now didn’t exist. Physics teachers are training young people for the STEM jobs for everyone’s future.”

“Physics is key to understanding how climate change works, how people’s impact on the atmosphere heats the planet; really importantly, a sustainable future needs principles from physics to be put to work so we reduce our carbon dioxide emissions to net zero,” explains Melissa. “Comfortable low energy housing, vehicles and infrastructure based on renewable energy, effective technology: we need huge numbers of young people moving into these fields for the important careers of tomorrow,” concludes Melissa.


An IOP TalkPhysics project launch CPD day is being held on June 15 to explore and explain the site. You can find out more and book a place here.

Physics can open doors to some of the most exciting, cutting-edge, rewarding jobs in the world. Our series of Phizzi professional resources offer an insight into just some of the career pathways from physics. Why not take a look? We will be adding more each month!


"Windfarm" by rasmithuk is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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