Dr Judith Hillier from the Department of Education has been awarded the Institute of Physics’ Marie Curie-Sklowdowska Medal and Prize 2021, and elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Physics. The medal recognises her significant contribution to the support of women in physics through her work with the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP UK & Ireland), and to the education of physics teachers and teachers of physics.
Dr Hillier has played a key role in the CUWiP, an event initially organised at the University of Southern California in 2006, and first held in Oxford in March 2015, led by Professor Daniela Bortoletto. Dr Hillier was brought in to conduct the conference evaluation using substantial pre- and post-conference questionnaires which revealed the powerful effect the conference had on the participants. Dr Hillier has continued to conduct the evaluations for each of the subsequent conferences – held at the University of Oxford until 2019, at the University of York in 2020 and the University of Southampton in 2021 (online). The data has enabled the conference organisers to continue to find funding to support the conference, and has led to the IoP setting up a steering committee to make CUWiP UK and Ireland a key part of the physics community’s work to support women in physics. Dr Hillier’s contributions to the steering committee have also been hugely valuable in enabling the conferences to succeed.
Dr Hillier leads the initial teacher education at Oxford, one of the leading providers in the UK and internationally, and has done since 2010. She regularly advises the IoP Education team about initial teacher education, and her expertise as a teacher educator is also valued by the Association for Science Education.
‘CUWiP is an amazing initiative,’ comments Dr Hillier. ‘Standing in a roomful of 100 women all studying physics is a transformational experience, and conducting the evaluations has yielded rich and valuable insights into the gendered experiences so many women have when studying physics. Encouraging more people to continue with careers in physics, and supporting people to teach physics well are two key aspects of my role, and I am humbled and grateful to receive this award in acknowledgement of my work in this area.’
Professor Ian Shipsey, Head of Department, Physics: ‘Judith’s work squarely addresses diversity and inclusion and is inspirational – and essential – and I am delighted that she has received this award in recognition of her extraordinary achievements.’
‘This award will be applauded enthusiastically by our entire College community,’ adds Professor Jonathan Michie, President, Kellogg College. ‘Diversity and inclusion were and remain foundational principles for our College, representing our core mission, so we are delighted that Dr Hillier's work has been recognised in this way – especially fitting given Judith's role in advancing the College's vision over the past five years as our Vice President.’
Jo-Anne Baird, Director of the Department of Education, concludes: ‘As Director of the Department of Education at the University of Oxford, I am delighted that this award has been given in recognition of Judith Hillier’s contribution to advancing women in physics and to the teaching of physics. Diversity is crucial in all of the disciplines, for engaging people so that they see this as a subject for them. Judith’s work has furthered both of these areas and I have no doubt she will continue to do so.’