Celebrating diversity in the city

Photo from Pride Edinburgh 2019

“This was my first Pride. I’m surprised at how wholesome it felt. I had a really great time.” SoPA PhD student.

Thousands of people, including students and staff from the School of Physics and Astronomy, attended the Pride Edinburgh march on Saturday.

This march provides a platform for politicians, community activists, and most importantly individuals to march through the streets of Edinburgh to celebrate diversity and personal identity. The march set off from outside the Scottish Parliament and continued to Bristo Square which was the setting for live music performances, community events and information stands.  The theme for this year’s event was ‘This is Me’ – an opportunity for everybody to celebrate their own identity.

PhD student Eoin, who organises the School’s monthly social event for staff, PhD students and allies reported: “Pride Scotia was a wonderful celebration of the queer community in Edinburgh. From the parade along the Mile to the celebration at Bristo Square and Teviot, so many aspects of the community were to be seen. I would definitely attend this event again next year.”

Pride marches have taken place in Scotland since 1995, initially alternating between Glasgow and Edinburgh, with annual marches taking place in Edinburgh since 2003.

This month sees the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.  The fusion of social and political movements and routine police raids on gay bars in 1960s US fuelled tensions within LGBT+ communities.  The riots at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 are seen as the galvanising force for LGBT+ activism, leading to the annual worldwide Pride events we see today.

Find out more about networks for students and staff by visiting PrideSoc, the Staff Pride Network or join the School’s EqualiTea meet up at 1pm on the second Wednesday of every month at the XY Café.

Inspiration and support for women in physics

Conference attendees

The Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics UK (CUWiP) aims to inspire physics students, highlight career options and provide a supportive community.

Students Sara Evers, Lucy Arditi and Storm Colloms (all year 2) attended the Conference, now in its fifth year, at the Department of Physics, Oxford University in March.  Sara tells us what the conference entailed, and how she benefitted from attending…

The first full day of the conference started with a visit to national research facility, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories (RAL). The most exciting part for me was the particle accelerator ISIS, the onsite muon and neutron source. The lab also hosts a central laser facility, a space research and engineering department and many other interesting facilities. As well as attending tours, presentations were made by several female engineers who told us about their work at RAL, how they got where they are today and about internship and graduate opportunities.

In the afternoon, we heard from Prof Alexandra Olaya-Castro from University College London about her research, inspiring career path and the challenges she faced along the way. Following that I attended a medical physics workshop. As someone who has always been interested in medicine and biology, being able to meet and talk to medical physicists and gain information about the different career options and training schemes was very insightful.

Day two started off with talks: Dr Francesca Day, who is a theoretical particle physicist at Cambridge University and a stand-up comedian gave a talk on ‘Science, Creativity and Stereotypes’, which focused on her personal story and research, and general gender and inequality issues in physics. Ms Carole Kenrick, a resident scientist working in primary schools in London, talked about getting young children invested and interested in science.

Tours of the laboratories at Oxford University were conducted in the afternoon, and I got to see a particle physics lab, where they worked on detectors for ATLAS, the particle accelerator and detector in Switzerland. I also saw a group working on producing solar cells out of biomaterials and some groups working on telescopes in the Astronomy department.

Following this was another talk: Dr Rain Irshad shared information on her career in space science, starting with her aim to become an astronaut, the many setbacks and changes in her life, and how she ended up working at RAL Space. I then attended a career panel, with six physicists who are now pursuing careers outside physics (e.g. Patent law, data science, government adviser). This showcased the many opportunities you can have with a physics degree. The day ended with an informal chat with scientists and PhD students.

The conference ended with an academic panel, and a talk from Dr Suchitra Sebastian about combining a career in physics with a life outside of work.

Attending this conference benefitted me in many different ways.  I realised there are many different career options available to those with a degree in physics, and learned how one can get into these different areas. It was very motivating to hear about all the setbacks people had to overcome, despite making it to where they are today. I now have a better understanding of what it means to do physics research both in academia and industry and what alternatives there are. On a more practical level, I learned about several internship programmes, some of which I will apply for next year, as well as information on postgraduate studies and funding, which will be very helpful in a few years’ time.

The most inspiring aspect of the conference however wasn’t the great programme, but that I got to meet so many female physicists and physics students, all very passionate about this subject. Being used to usually having a male majority in every lecture and workshop, sitting in a lecture theatre full of female physicists is quite an empowering feeling. Over the weekend, I got to meet so many great and inspiring people and made many great connections and friendships that will hopefully last for a long time. I’m very grateful to both the organisers of the conference, especially the main organiser Prof Daniela Bortoletto, and the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, who enabled us to attend the conference by covering our travel costs to Oxford.

CUWiP:

https://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/confs/cuwip2019/aboutus.html

Working to create an open and inclusive environment for all

 

We all live with unconscious biases and constrictive societal norms.  The School’s Equality and Diversity Committee meet monthly to discuss these and other such issues regarding Equality and Diversity, and are actively fighting against such biases to create an open and inclusive environment for all of our staff and students.

Gloria Hamlyn and Ozioma Kamalu are the School’s undergraduate representatives on the Equality and Diversity Committee. “We both joined because we feel that there is a long way to go before physics sees true equality, and we want to further the progress in any way we can. Since its beginning, science has been a collaborative effort and we feel that without every voice represented, the whole scientific effort is weakened.”

The School’s Equality and Diversity Committee has a number of responsibilities, with some of its current activities including:

–          applying for renewal of the Institute of Physics Juno Champion and Athena SWAN Silver award. These awards recognise the efforts of educational departments to improve gender equality within the academic community. The School’s application outlines future plans for implementations such as awareness training, gender ratios on hiring panels, and initiatives for greater provisions for disabled students and staff.

–          working with EUSA to discuss plans for the introduction of gender-neutral toilets in JCMB. This has proven successful in other university buildings around the campus, such as Teviot and Murchison House.

–          looking at ways to highlight more effectively the services EUSA’s The Advice Place provide to students at the King’s Buildings campus. Currently, there is only one advisor available for three hours, four days a week in KB, as opposed to the extensive services available in the Central Campus. Hopefully, with increased demand at KB, improvements to The Advice Place branch will follow as a result.

–          helping with the upcoming poster campaign which has been organised by the Physics and Astronomy Society. This campaign aims to bring a greater awareness to women and underrepresented groups of the past and present in physics who have gone unrecognised for too long. Keep an eye out for them around the JCMB!

Interested in finding out more or getting involved?  Gloria (s1511801@sms.ed.ac.uk) and Ozioma (s1559201@sms.ed.ac.uk) would love to hear your thoughts on E&D matters and are both happy to receive emails with suggestions that we can bring forward to the committee for consideration.

“Our aim is to ensure that issues that matter to you are heard and given serious thought by people through all levels of the School.”

Check out the School of Physics and Astronomy Equality and Diversity wiki page for information on complaints procedures, current school goals, and relevant contacts within and outwith the School:

https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/SOPAEDI/Equality+and+Diversity

Together we can create positive change for everyone by encouraging more engagement with these issues throughout the School.