Vice Chancellor with some of the team
Credit: John Cairns

Community project wins VC Award

A community engagement project supported by the Department of Physics was named joint winner of the Vice Chancellor’s Community Partnership Award 2024. For My Place, My Science, researchers from departments across the Mathematical, Physics and Life Sciences (MPLS) division, including the Department of Physics, worked with the History of Science Museum and the community group African Families in the UK to support young people of African and black Caribbean heritage to enjoy science and build cultural connections. 

Based in Blackbird Leys, one of the 20% most deprived wards in the country, the project put together a programme of events and workshops, several of which were led by the Department of Physics. These included two themed sessions – Levitate, a hands-on workshop on superconductivity, and Magnets Fantastic, a fun-filled, action-packed show – that made up Magnetism Morning as well as a community stargazing event. The Department of Physics also staged a half-day event on climate change with hands-on activities and craft. More than 25 members of the department have been involved in the activities so far and the participating young people are now working towards showcasing what they have learnt in a festival-style event held at the History of Science Museum. The events and activities help those from migrant families to develop and build confidence and self-esteem, and bring them closer to the scientific community. 

Lena Shams leads the Department’s engagement initiatives for families and young people in the community and is part of the steering group that shapes the programme within the partnership: ‘By engaging with families in our local community, we are sparking passion and interest across generations and fostering a culture where everyone feels empowered to explore and enjoy science. The partnership is passionate in ensuring the young people have access to opportunities to connect with the research, scientists and buildings on their doorstep. We are thrilled to have been recognised in the VC Awards!’

The Vice-Chancellor’s Awards recognise the achievements and celebrate success across the collegiate University, from academics and researchers to professional, technical and support staff. There were 250 award entries, with 1,500 individuals included in the nominations, from all parts of the University and colleges. A total of 65 nominations were shortlisted, and were given an opportunity to share their work at a showcase event at the Weston Library. The winners of the 2024 awards were announced a special ceremony hosted by the Vice-Chancellor at the Sheldonian Theatre on 8 May.