Women in Physics Open Day

On Wednesday 22nd April, the physics department opened the doors to the Blackett Laboratory and welcomed in 150 budding scientists. Whilst open days at IC aren’t scarce, this visit was an all girl group, coming from different schools across London.

1:00- 1:30pm Registration Level 2 Foyer, Blackett Laboratory
1.30-1:50 pm Welcome & Overview Dr Mark Richards, Director of Physics Outreach
1.50- 2:10pm The PhD Student journey PhD Student Jess Wade
2.10-2:30pm Experimental Demo Lecture Theatre 1
2.30-3:00 pm The Physics of Solar Cells Prof Jenny Nelson FRS
3:00-3:30 pm The Admissions process Dr Juliet Pickering   Departmental Admissions Tutor
3.30-3:50 pm The Rosetta Mission Dr Marina Galand
3.50-4.00 pm Wrap up and feedback Staff and Students

We started the WiP open days to show girls how much fun they can have doing a science degree and the kind projects they could research in SW7. Last year’s event was a total success, although was hideously timed after AS season had kicked off- so attendance was limited. With good feedback and excellent organisation, we learnt our lesson this year and the spaces filled within hours of the adverts going out. I sent the ad to all of the schools I’ve spoken at in the passed few years.

We had some awesome academic talks, where the girls learnt about IC’s research in solar cells and how we’ve contributed to the Rosetta mission. The exceptional fellow of the royal society, Professor Jenny Nelson, spoke about how the physics the girls were learning at school is used to battle climate change. Professor Nelson isn’t only a brilliant lecturer and teacher, but just about my scientific hero- there is very little she can’t explain in a language even noobs like me can understand. Dr. Marina Galand explained why space physicists are so excited about chasing comets. Dr. Galand is very important in the space physics community at IC, and teaches undergrads all they need to know about atmospheric physics. The head of UG admissions, Dr. Juliet Pickering, talked the pupils through the admissions process.


It was super embarrassing talking alongside such brilliant research themes and people with so many letters following their names. Despite her many accolades, Prof. Nelson still signs emails ‘jenny’. I tried my best, and will upload my slides shortly… I told the students about how lucky I’ve been at imperial and how many doors it’s opened for me. Physics is an incredibly trendy subject to study at the moment, and you have to look quite hard to find people who aren’t excited about it. With pretty much all of life relying on physics in someway, if you have an inquisitive mind, a basic physics text book is a thing of great wonder. I also told the students about the work we’re doing in the centre for plastic electronics, making flexible displays and LEDs.

Of course the super talented king of outreach Simon Foster laid out a few hands on experiments to show the fun side of physics- where we use refractive indices to make things disappear, sublime dry ice (just solid carbon dioxide) to make clouds on stage and hope to use super conductors to make magnetic railways. I’m not sure Simon ever has a dull thought in his head- we’re very lucky to have him at IC.

Check out what one of the attendees, Rachel from Sydenham High, wrote up for her local news website

Here’s a video of the dry ice cloud bubbles we made:

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