Dr Laurence Wroe

Dr Laurence Wroe with one of his specially commissioned 'funky drums'

Dr Wroe wins SEPnet Public Engagement Award

Accelerator physics

Oxford alumnus Dr Laurence Wroe has been awarded the Newcomer Award in the South East Physics Network (SEPnet) Public Engagement Awards 2023 that took place on 11 September 2023. The award recognises Dr Wroe’s Funky Drums and Particle Accelerators workshop that he led during the final year of his PhD in particle physics at Oxford. Dr Wroe is now Senior Fellow at CERN.

Dr Wroe’s innovative workshop explores the parallels between the electromagnetic modes in azimuthally modulated RF cavities for application in particle accelerators, and the vibrational modes of azimuthally modulated drums. He targeted the initiative at 11-14-year-old state school students and aimed to encourage uptake in post-16 STEM study. To achieve this, he carefully designed his workshop to build the students’ science capital.

For the project, Dr Wroe commissioned a drum maker to construct nine bespoke Bodhran drums in three different designs. Each design had the same cross-sectional shape as an azimuthally modulated RF cavity shape that he researched and presented in a published scientific paper. He then produced a recording of a professional drummer playing the drums for the workshop.

Building science capital

In total, Dr Wroe engaged with some 300 young people in four different Oxfordshire schools and assessed the students’ science capital both before and after the workshop.

‘At Oxford, we work really hard to foster a culture of bringing our transformative research to life to as many people as possible,’ explains Outreach Programmes Manager, Dr Sian Tedaldi. ‘I am absolutely delighted that Laurence has been recognised with this award. His Funky Drums public engagement project is exemplary from planning and delivery to evaluation and ensuring a legacy. Congralutions!’

The SEPnet Public Engagement Awards recognise excellence in public engagement with research across current and former SEPnet members with nine different categories of award: Newcomer Award (individual); Communication Award (individual); Innovation Project Award (project); Achievement Award (individual); Impact Project Award (project); Research Group Award (research group); Public Engagement Champion Award (individual); Strategic Approach to Public Engagement Award (department); and Partnership Award (partnerships).

The South East Physics Network (SEPnet) is a network of six universities in the south east of England working together to deliver excellence in physics. SEPnet currently comprises the University of Hertfordshire, the University of Portsmouth, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Southampton and the University of Sussex. The University of Oxford has previously been an associate member of the network.

Big Data: ATLAS won the Public Engagement Award at the event while Dr Thomas Hird from Oxford's Department of Physics was highly commended in the Achievement Award category and Dr Katherine Shirley was highly commended in the Public Engagement Champion Award category.