Eimear Conroy, Alan Barr, Julie Kirk, Ynyr Harris

From left to right: Eimear Conroy, Alan Barr, Julie Kirk (RAL) and Ynyr Harris

Second award for Big Data: ATLAS project

Particle Physics

The Big Data: ATLAS team has been has been recognised with a second award: Outstanding Partner in this year’s Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) Awards. The awards celebrate and showcase students’ research and recognise researchers, teachers and partners. Big Data: ATLAS is a collaborative partnership that gives students aged 16+ from UK state schools the opportunity to work with data showing proton-proton collisions from the ATLAS detector at CERN.

The Big Data: ATLAS project, led by Professor Alan Barr from the Department of Physics at Oxford, brings together IRIS and the Particle Physics Department at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). Over 30 weeks, students learn analytical and coding methods used by particle physicists and develop skills such as statistical analysis. They are taught how to use Python to access and manipulate ATLAS data; they then develop a research idea of their own and prepare a presentation to showcase their work. The project is designed to support students who may not have come across particle physics or computer programming before. The partnership has enabled 24 schools and 275 students (61% boys and 39% girls, with 93% from state schools) across the UK to engage with real particle physics research.

The Big Data: ATLAS team at Oxford comprises Professor Alan Barr, graduate students Eimear Conroy, Ludo Fraser-Taliente, Ynyr Harris and Alessandro Ruggiero, Postdoctoral Research Assistants Dr Thomas Hird and Dr Koichi Nagai and Outreach Programmes Manager Dr Sian Tedaldi.

‘Alan Barr, Professor of Particle Physics at the University of Oxford, and the ATLAS team have provided a unique opportunity for IRIS students to learn key skills in Python programming and apply them to answering important questions in particle physics. Through Big Data: ATLAS, they continue to push the boundaries of what school pupils can achieve.’

‘As part of the Big Data: ATLAS project, I am delighted that we won the Outstanding Partner Award – the second award in as many weeks!’ adds Dr Sian Tedaldi, Outreach Programmes Manager at the Department of Physics. ‘Professor Barr’s project is ambitious but by partnering with IRIS and RAL, we have been able to realise it in a rigorous and engaging way. It is a great example of the culture of public engagement with research that we foster here at Oxford.’

At the awards ceremony on 28 September, researchers from King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys were presented with the Best Project Award for their own work as part of the Big Data: ATLAS project.

Big Data: ATLAS won the SEPnet Public Engagement Award on 11 Septmember 2023.