Physics Outreach - University of Liverpool

Latest News, Events and Activities

Public Engagement and Outreach Activities

Members of our Department deliver talks on particle physics, the Large Hadron Collider, neutrinos, latest antimatter, dark matter, CERN, new methods to accelerate charged particles, as well as about the applications that fundamental research has enabled.

Tara Shears

For example, Tara Shears delivers talks to a variety of audiences. Many of these are recorded and available online. See, for example

TEDx events:

The Department has also produced a number of science short films for general audiences, including

Finally, we have organized many outreach events for international audiences, featuring world-class speakers including Professor Brian Cox, Dr Ceri Brenner, and award-winning designer and author Curtis Jobling

Ann Marks Outreach and Public Engagement in Physics Prize 2019

The Ann Marks, Outreach and Public Engagement in Physics Prize is awarded annually to an undergraduate or postgraduate student associated with Merseyside to recognise their contribution to the promotion of physics through public engagement or activities in schools.

Ann Marks Award Winners

Image: Previous winners Abbie Chadwick (left) and Jennifer Graham (right) receiving their awards presented by Neil Marks, Ann’s Husband

The prize in named after Ann Marks MBE FInstP who sadly passed away in 2016 and was prominent in encouraging a wider appreciation of physics through outreach and public engagement. As a specialist physics teacher, she has provided teacher professional development and was involved in training physicists, across the UK, to give presentations to interest school pupils, particularly girls, in science.

She was a keen communicator of science and developed web-based presentations that are now used internationally and has been an education consultant for university departments involved in physics outreach.

The event commemorates her work in support of women physicists, and encouragement of a wider appreciation of physics through outreach and public engagement. The successful nominee will be invited to accept their award and £150 prize at the Ann Marks Memorial lecture 2019 on Tuesday 7th May 2019 18:30 to 19:30 in the Central Teaching Hub, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7BX.

The Lecture will be given by Dr Barbara J Gabrys CPhys FInstP, Member of Advisory Panel to the IoP Women in Physics Group.

Nominations open on Friday 5th April and close on Monday 29th April, if you wish to nominate a student or are a student who would like to self-nominate please read the nomination criteria and complete a nomination form which can be downloaded here.

Ogden Isaac Mentoring Programmes 2018/19
Ogden Isaac Mentoring Programmes 2018/19

The University of Liverpool Ogden Isaac Physics Fellow will be running mentoring programmes 2018/19 and is inviting GCSE (Y10&11) and ALEVEL (Y12&Y13) students in the Liverpool area to apply.

For those unfamiliar with Isaac Physics, it is a University of Cambridge based programme supported by the DfE with a huge online resource of problem solving questions from each area of the physics curriculum for levels GCSE – 1st Year University.

This last year our Isaac Physics Fellow has been visiting selected schools regularly and working with some of their groups through Isaac Physics assignments, mentoring and tuition.

Rather than going into the schools regularly, as has been done this year, we have decided to run a university based programme, where individual students sign themselves up where they are invited to attend 2 events  per school term at the University of Liverpool to build up, develop and practice their physics and maths skills.

Advantages of this are:

  • No disruption from other school subjects/lessons
  • Students experience is enhanced during the events
  • They will meet other students from the region
  • Access to some of our high quality facilities/laboratories

The Liverpool Ogden Isaac Physics Fellow, Sarah Annand, had this to say about last year’s programme, “From my experience working with students in the region this year on Isaac physics I believe any student that engages with this programme will benefit with increased confidence, ability, aspirations and likely attainment.”

Students can find further information and register at this link

Ogden Schools Physicist of the Year Awards (SPOTY)

On the evening of 21st June the Sarah Annand, Ogden Science Officer & Isaac Physics Fellow hosted the annual Ogden Schools Physicist of the Year Awards (SPOTY) in the Central Teaching Laboratories.

The event celebrates the achievement of year 12 physics students from schools across Merseyside. Students are nominated by their teachers for their hard work and achievements over the last academic year.

Tom Fells The Mosslands School
Tom Fells of The Mosslands School with his certificate. Image coutesy of @MosslandsSTEAM

They are then invited to attend the event with their teachers and parents to celebrate their achievements while enjoying an evening buffet including Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream prepared by our Physics Outreach Group (POG) undergraduates and a physics lecture delivered by an academic researcher before officially receiving their award. 

This year’s event had 8 nominees from a variety of schools. They were delivered an inspirational talk by Barbara Grundy, Ogden Trust Consultant, followed by a ‘mind blowing’ Relativity lecture delivered by Dr Barry King.

Dr Barry King
Dr Barry King delivers a ‘Mind Blowing’ Relativity Lecture to guests. Image courtesy of AB Photography.

Nominated students may be eligible for an Ogden Scholarship if they pursue Physics at university.

Sarah Annand said about this year’s event, “I hope that these exceptional students found the evening rewarding. The pride in their parents and teachers seeing the recognition these students deserve and experiencing some of the high level Physics that their own children are learning was clear and abundant.

These young Physicists are our future and will surely make a difference to the world throughout their own individual journey, it was a pleasure to meet them all and I hope we are lucky enough to see them here at Liverpool in a couple of years!”

IOP Science Ambassador Training Day 2017

On 20th June the Institute of Physics hosted an event in the Central Teaching Laboratories. Supported by the CTL team and the Physics Outreach Group undergraduate team, 50 students from 5 schools across Merseyside were trained as Science Ambassadors.

IOP Science Ambassador Training Day 2017
Image: Ambassadors demonstrate UV reactive beads

Students worked in mixed-school groups to learn how to deliver a range of science demonstrations, as well as taking part in a presentation skills session.

IOP Science Ambassador Training Day 2017
Image: Matthew Harriman-Brady POG undergraduate Mentors one of the groups

Each group had the opportunity to present a demonstration and receive constructive feedback from teachers and professional science communicators all the time with ‘Mentors’ from our experienced POG undergraduates

IOP Science Ambassador Training Day 2017
Image: Ambassadors demonstrate film canister rockets

These excellent Science Ambassadors hope to use these ‘soft’ skills and new knowledge to help their schools with open days/evenings, primary school visits and possibly University of Liverpool events such as the ‘Science Jamboree’.

IOP Science Ambassador Training Day 2017
Image: Ambassadors demonstrate balloon rockets with Mentor support of Alice Rhind-Tutt POG undergraduate

Staff and students had an excellent and enjoyable day exploring a variety of science experiments and demonstrations.

IOP Science Ambassador Training Day 2017
Image: Ambassadors demonstrate water absorbent substances with Mentor support from Bethany Davies POG Undergraduate
IOP Science Ambassador Training Day 2017
Image: Demonstrating the effect of a vacuum on different objects like marshmallows

For further information on similar events contact Claire Aspinall, Gender Balance Officer for the Institute of Physics.

Liverpool Physics undergraduate wins IOP award for outreach
Abbie Chadwick - IOP Ann Marks award for outreach winner

On 6th March 2017 the IOP Merseyside branch celebrated the contribution to physics of Ann Marks MBE FInstP, who sadly passed away end of last year.

The event commemorated her work in support of women physicists, and encouragement of a wider appreciation of physics through outreach and public engagement. As part of this evening, the first Ann Marks Memorial Lecture was given by Prof Athene Donald DBE FRS and Master of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge about the ‘Science of Goo’.

Abbie Chadwick, currently a second year student and prominent member of the Physics Outreach Group, received the first Ann Marks award for her communication of physics through outreach activities. The prize was handed over by Professor Neil Marks, Ann’s husband.

The Ann Marks memorial lecture will be given annually by a prominent female physicist and a prize will be awarded annually to an undergraduate student to recognize their contribution to the promotion of physics through public engagement in schools.

Accelerator Outreach kicks up a notch
Accelerator Outreach

Last Saturday (1st April) was a hot day for our QUASAR Group’s effort to promote accelerator science among the public and attract youngsters to this exciting field of science and technology.

The first highlight was a live radio interview involving Prof Carsten Welsch and Lina Hoummi in BBC Manchester’s breakfast show. The interview focused on the societal impact of particle accelerators, the importance of fascinating children for science and technology, and the startling claim that one can make a particle accelerator with a salad bowl.

The salad bowl accelerator was subsequently demonstrated in a live broadcast via BBC Manchester’s Facebook live page, reaching to thousands of viewers.

The visit to BBC Manchester studios was a prelude to the CoderDojo at Beamont Collegiate Academy in Warrington, the only STEM assured academy in the UK, and home to FabLab.

The CoderDojo is a volunteer-led technology event for young people and their parents, where children between 7 and 17 learn how to code, develop websites, fly drones, or build robots. Accelerator experts and students from our department participated in the CoderDojo for the first time, spicing it up with some exciting accelerator physics experiments, which were attended by almost 100 people. 

Beamont Collegiate Academy Outreach

In addition to watching the salad bowl accelerator in action, children and adults had the chance to build their own rail guns and get their hair standing on end with the aid of a Van de Graaff generator, while learning about the importance of particle accelerators for science and society.

To find out more about the demonstrations activities, and how to build the salad bowl accelerator visit our videos on YouTube:

University of Liverpool Solar Challenge team

The UOL Solar Project is a team of 50+ students based in the University intending to build and compete to set a British, then World Record in Solar Powered flight. The team is made of students from 1st year through to Masters and PhD level, with students studying Physics, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, Maths and Business based degrees.

Solar Challenge 1

Figure 1, Prototype number 1. A complete redesign and rebuild was completed soon after this photo was taken.

We will be competing in June of 2017 but our long-term aim is to innovate over multiple iterations of our designs and over multiple years, entering both national and international competitions with the final goal of eventually commercialising our designs and product.

We will also be taking steps to promote solar energy as a viable and renewable form of energy to schools, cub/scout groups and the public at large. The team have also recently been offered funding from the Department of Physics, the Centre for Doctoral Training in New and Sustainable Photovoltaics, the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy, the Green Guild and large commercial sponsors like our solar cell supplier Gochermann Solar Technology and our carbon fibre partner, Sigmatex.

The craft itself will be a small (2m wingspan) radio controlled glider style craft with no batteries, an electric motor, solar cells and just the sun for power. The team is split into subteams with each taking responsibility for the different components of the project, design, electronics, finance and social media. Physics students, for example, play vital roles within the team, with our Programme Manager being a 3rd Year MPhys Undergraduate. Other Physics Undergraduates, 1st year through to 4th, lead the carbon fibre R&D, work on the general design of the aircraft, on the electronics and as a part of the Solar Cell R&D.

December 2016 Update:

Having taken delivery of our solar cells all the way from Germany, we spent the summer building our first prototype aircraft. These cells are custom designed by us, and built by Gochermann are some of the most efficient and super light cells money can buy! The aircraft itself was built by a small team of students and is primarily built from balsa wood and carbon fibre.

Solar Challenge 2 Solar Challenge 3
Figure 2, Gochermann Solar Cells, 22.7% efficient weighting only a few hundred grams!
The cells (with lamination) were only 0.6 mm thick thinner than the tape used to stick the cells on the aircraft!!
Figure 3, Redesigned Wing, weighing in at a surprisingly light 200g.

Our prototype (minus electronics) weighs less than a kilo but the team decided this wasn’t light enough! Going into the Christmas break the team have managed to almost complete our second prototype, rebuilding the fuselage and wing, even going so far to fit the control surfaces and electronics.

We were lucky enough in November to win the Liverpool PwC Opportunity Challenge (quiz) and will go to London in February to compete against other Universities in the final for a £5000 prize. In November we also won the University’s Green Guild Enterprise Challenge, providing funds and business related support from the Guild.

Going into the New Year we’ll be adding the finishing touches to our Prototype craft, and combining each of the subteam's research into a design ready for the race in the summer.


XMaS Gala

On 10th January 2017 the Department of Physics held a science gala in the Central Teaching Laboratories promoting the ‘XMaS Experience’, a competition funded by the XMaS group linked to both Liverpool and Warwick Universities. The competition is for year 12 female physics students where successful entrants win an all expenses paid trip to Grenoble to visit the ESRF Synchrotron and work with researchers at XMaS.

The evening began by showcasing the scope of careers in physics and other STEM subjects with representatives from industry, the Institute of Physics, LivWISE, the physics outreach group and the department of Chemistry. Guests were also given a tour of the excellent facilities in the CTL and enjoyed Planetarium shows delivered by physics undergraduates as well as freshly made Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream.

XMaS Gala Presentation

The guests were later invited to a series of talks including researchers from XMaS and other synchrotron facilities, president of Physoc, previous winners of the XMaS Experience and ended on an exciting live link up to scientists in the control room at the ATLAS facility in CERN.

XMas Gala Screen

For details of how to enter the XMaS Experience 2017 Competition please click here.

Ogden funded CERN Trip

A-level Physics pupils from six Liverpool schools are flying out to Geneva, Switzerland in March 2017 to visit and take a tour of the international research facility, CERN.

Funded by the Ogden Trust the trip will include a tour offering an introduction to CERN, allowing visitors to discover the history of the Laboratory and the latest scientific developments. The tour consists of a visit to a historic area of CERN and to the operations centre of one of the experiments. Immersive audio-visual presentations complement the information provided by the tour guide.

The group will be staying on-site in the CERN Hostel where they will gain insight into the international collaborative nature of this high-profile facility.

For details of how to arrange a booking for a CERN tour please click here.

Ogden Trust

CTL Staff Win Award
CTL Staff Award

A team from the University’s Central Teaching Laboratory has been awarded a Higher Education Academy’s (HEA) Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE).

The new CATE award, being piloted this year, recognises teaching excellence by teams at higher education providers.  The collaborative award reflects the key role that teamwork has in promoting student success through learning and teaching. The CTL were announced as winners at a ceremony held at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, London. At the same ceremony, Dr Susanne Voelkel also received her National Teaching Fellowship award.

The CTL comprises Geologist Dr Elisabeth Rushworth with scholarship interests in internationalisation and interdisciplinary team work, Dr Helen Vaughan, a physicist with interests in embedding employability skills through in-curriculum and co-curricular learning experience and Dr Catherine Cropper, a chemist who specialises in digital laboratories and engaging parents and children in STEM.

Impact across the University

HEA judged the CTL to have had impact on departments across the university, supporting new pedagogies in large group teaching, improved delivery of employability skills and the introduction of cross disciplinary modules and multi-disciplinary dissertation projects.

Together they have developed and embedded the collaborative “Educational Broker Model” at Faculty level. As educational brokers they work with academic and technical staff in discipline specific departments to develop and support teaching and learning in CTL.

Fifteen institutions were shortlisted for the award.  Six of these institutions were awarded grants of £15,000 to disseminate their learning, including the University of Liverpool.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Gavin Brown said: “I would like to congratulate the CTL team on their award which is a great example of teaching excellence at the University. Their work has given students the opportunity to work with peers from other disciplines, allowing them to develop the necessary skills to find meaningful employment in the modern STEM world.”

I would also like to congratulate Dr Susan Voelkel on formally receiving her Fellowship Award recognising the positive impact she has had on the quality of Life Sciences teaching at Liverpool.”

Further information

For further information on the Collaborative Awards for Teaching Excellence go to:

Workshops on Accelerator Science Official Videos

The University of Liverpool’s Quasar group has released on YouTube two official videos of their Workshops on Accelerator Science and Engineering.

Pupils attending the workshop visit the Cockcroft Institute with their teachers to enjoy a day of experimental demonstrations on electromagnetism and mingling with world-class accelerator scientists.

The students were given the task of building a series of machines that demonstrate the basic principles of particle accelerators. While learning the importance of accelerators in science and society, they had the chance to test their experimental skills and consider the prospect of pursuing a career in engineering.

The first was held on 15th June 2016, and was attended by 46 Year 10 students from Helsby High School, Frodsham. (See the video below)

The project was funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering through the Ingenious Award scheme.

The second was held on 14th July 2016, and was attended by 54 Year 9 students from Shevington High School, Wigan. (See the video below).

The project was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council through the Public Engagement Small Award scheme. 

Accelerator science logo
Physics Themes for Outreach and Public Engagement

The department of Physics will have 4 themes per academic year to link to key dates and anniversaries of scientific milestones. From celebrating the 100th year anniversary of Barkla’s Nobel Prize in Physics to looking at the Physics of Star Wars, each theme will be explored in the context of public lectures, exhibitions, schools workshops and much more.

Upcoming Themes

  • Barkla’s Nobel Prize in Physics 100th year anniversary – June 2017
  • Marie Curie’s 150th birthday –November 2017
  • Physics of Star Wars – December 2017
Physics themes for outreach

Details of events and activities coming soon.