There is a problem of a lack of diversity within the sciences and the scientific workforce is universal across the disciplines. In this lecture series we discuss some of the challenges we face in physics to making our community more diverse, equal and inclusive. We hear from speakers from a wide range of backgrounds about what they think some of the challenges are, the work they have done and are doing to make real changes and how we can all do our part to build a better physics community.

This is an open lecture series hosted by the Department of Physics where we welcome everyone to come and learn in a welcoming and inclusive environment. The speakers present their research in physics to the Department during the talks, however you do not need a high level of physics understanding to attend.

Challenges and Changes in Physics is hosted by Dr Alex Ramadan, supported by Dr Kathryn Boast.


Who we are and the experiences we go through shape the way we see the world around us. As physicists our experiences shape how we do our research and the problems we choose to tackle. It is important we have physicists with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds working on the answers to fundamental questions about the universe around us. Through this we will ensure we are tackling issues which go beyond one specific group of people or experiences and that we are ensuring an accurate view of the world around us. Without this we will not be able to achieve the ultimate goal of research in physics: understanding how the universe behaves.

Previous events

  • Dr Jess Wade is a research fellow at Imperial College, London who works on chiral organic light emitting diodes. Jess is an advocate for minority voices in science and has created hundreds of Wikipedia pages to amplify the achievements of women and people of colour in science.
  • Dr Clara Barker [she/her] is a researcher who works on thin-film materials and manages the Centre for Applied Superconductivity in the Materials Department at Oxford University. Clara is the Chair of the Oxford University LGBT+ advisory group and runs a youth group for LGBTI+ people, as well as giving many talks in schools and beyond in which she shares her story of being a trans scientist. In 2017 she won a Prime Minister's Points of Light Award for her outstanding volunteer work. A recording of the talk can be found on our YouTube channel.
  • Prof Jocelyn Bell Burnell [she/her] is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland who discovered the first pulsar while a graduate student at Cambridge. In 2018, Jocelyn was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. She gave all of the £2.3 million prize money to found a scholarship supporting female, minority and refugee students to become physics researchers. A recording of the talk can be found on our YouTube channel.
  • Dr Jason Arday from Durham University is a leading expert in the study of race and education. His research examines the persistence of racism in academia and its effects on black and minority ethnic students and researchers. He is a leading academic in the field and has worked with many of the Russell Group universities as a consultant on their approaches to tackling racism in their institutions. A recording of the talk can be found on our YouTube channel.
  • Paulette Williams is the Founder and Managing Director of Leading Routes, a pioneering initiative that aims to prepare the next generation of Black academics. Paulette has over 15 years experiences leading widening participation and student success projects in higher education. She is active in addressing racial inequities in higher education contributing to advisory groups led by organisations such as Universities UK (UUK) and London Higher as well as Co-Chairing the Race Equality Steering Group at UCL where she works as Co-Lead for the BAME Awarding Gap project. A recording of the talk can be found on our YouTube channel.

Challenges and Changes ED&I panel discussion

Oxford's Department of Physics is committed to equality for everyone in the department, and aims to be as diverse as the community around us, with everyone in the department valuing that diversity. Are we achieving that aim?

In this discussion, staff and students had the opportunity to put their questions and comments to our panel of speakers, who range from postdoctoral researchers to the Head of Department. The panel consisted of:

  • Prof. Ian Shipsey (Head of Department)
  • Prof. Sonia Contera (Associate Head of Department ED&I)
  • Prof. Matt Jarvis (Associate Head of MPLS - People)
  • Dr Aprajita Verma (Senior Researcher and a MPLS ED&I Fellow)
  • Dr Alex Ramadan (Postdoctoral Researcher and Host). 

Recommended resources

Our Challenges and Changes team have compiled a list of resources around the issues addressed in the programme.


  • Superior by Angela Saini
  • Inferior by Angela Saini
  • Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Bad feminist by Roxane Gay
  • The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house by Audre Lorde
  • Men explain things to me by Rebecca Solint
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Redefining realness by Janet Mock
  • White fragility: why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin Diangelo
  • How to be an anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi

Podcasts and videos

  • Code Switch (NPR) 
  • BLAM UK (Black History Bites)
  • The Guilty Feminist
  • LGBTQ+ Stem Cast
  • The Read 
  • Why aren’t you a doctor yet?
  • Science and Islam: Link to video here.



Code of Conduct - Reading Group

This is the Code of Conduct for the Challenges & Changes Reading Group, published here in Hilary 2022.