There’s a wide range of outreach opportunities available for you in the Department of Physics at York. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about my experience with the Nuclear Physics Masterclasses.
Outreach work is incredibly exciting – there’s something for everyone, from demonstrating telescopes on the Astrocampus, to constructing an eight-metre-long nuclide chart using 25,000 LEGO bricks! You can be working with all ages, from primary school to A level Physics students, as well as the public and families. It really is very rewarding to be able to engage a wide range of audiences in physics, and share your passion for science.
The Department of Physics ran these Masterclasses for Year 12 and 13 Physics students last winter. The Masterclasses introduced students to key concepts in nuclear physics, as well as its applications in medicine, astrophysics and nuclear fusion. Department lecturers and researchers gave online, undergraduate-style lectures, so students got a real taste of what it would be like studying at York.
My role within the Masterclass was to answer questions from students on an online live question forum. I worked through all the content for the various modules of the Masterclass so that I was prepared to answer student questions in a written format. Even though at the time I was in the third year of my degree, I still learned a lot from going through the content. I especially enjoyed learning about all the different applications of nuclear physics – potentially areas I could consider a career in after graduation.
There were a lot of interesting questions. It was great to see the students engaged in the topics. I even got a chance to explain some of the work we’d been doing in the nuclear teaching laboratory as part of my degree. For the majority of the questions, I had to help students work through the problems set as part of the Masterclass. I was able to help them develop their problem-solving skills – something that is an essential part of being a physicist!
Reflecting on my experience
This was a great experience that really helped me develop my teaching and educational skills. If you’re considering a career in teaching or education, I’d recommend getting involved with outreach. Learning how to explain complex topics to a range of different levels is a valuable skill. I believe this placement can give you lots of practice. It also really helped my studies, to be able to refresh my nuclear physics knowledge, and also answer some challenging questions that I hadn’t thought of before – you might be surprised by the clever questions students will ask you. Nuclear physics is such an integral part of the Physics programme here at York. Experience explaining the concepts to other people is definitely good for your revision!
The Department outreach has been one of the most rewarding parts of my degree. Getting other people, especially younger children, excited about physics and science is always fulfilling – especially when it involves LEGO!
Image source: Binding Blocks LEGO Nuclide Chart