Students sitting in a lecture theatre

Just some of the this year's Department of Physics UNIQ cohort.

Credit: Saheb Hoque

A UNIQ experience

In July, the Department of Physics welcomed 40 students as part of UNIQ, the University of Oxford’s access programme for state school students with a focus on underrepresented groups. The programme offers both an in-person residential in an Oxford college as well as an online support programme; it is a great opportunity for students to find out if Oxford is right for them as well as to explore subjects that interest them. Participants get to speak to current undergraduates as well as academics at Oxford and mix with often like-minded peers from across the country.

UNIQ at the Department of Physics offered a 3-day summer school, with a programme of lectures, practicals and tutorials to give participants a valuable insight into what studying physics at Oxford would be like. Professors Sonia Contera, Alexander Schekochihin, Alexy Karenowska, Kimberly Palladino and David Alonso delivered lectures on biological physics, dimensional analysis, superconductivity, special relativity and astrophysics respectively to this year’s cohort while Jenny Barnes led an insightful and informative practical course for them. There was also a session covering the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT), mandatory for everyone who applies to study physics or physics and philosophy at Oxford. Some 14 members of the department (postdocs and DPhil students) also delivered tutorials to the students where they solved the problem sheets accompanying the lectures.

‘It’s so important for the Department of Physics that we support such initiatives,’ comments Professor Sonia Contera who led UNIQ for the Department of Physics, ‘and I am incredibly grateful to those colleagues and postgraduate students who took part and made it such a success. The participants were engaged and enthusiastic – in particular, those who are also part of Professor Alex Lvovsky’s COMPOS programme. COMPOS is another excellent initiative that, like UNIQ, stands to widen diversity in physics to the benefit of everybody.’

Overall, the academic experience at Oxford was incredible…It explained topics in a way I understood and taught me vast and varying other things, like the political nature of physics and essence of ChatGPT. Thank you so much to everyone involved in the academic side of UNIQ.
Participant, 2023