Dr. Martin Archer has developed a new framework, Physics Research in School Environments (PRiSE), where researchers engage schools through six-month projects based on their own research. It is the only programme that successfully engages with significant numbers of underprivileged students, due to the unprecedented level of academic support provided. Students and teachers from 50 diverse schools have developed new confidence and skills. The PRiSE template has been adopted by the Ogden Trust, SEPnet and Royal Society as a leading example of best practice.

The science: Physics Research in School Environments (PRiSE)

Archer’s research career has focused on many of these dynamical processes, investigating their origins, properties and consequences. The results on the range of frequencies has fed into the design of an audible dataset to take advantage of human auditory system in detection of ULF wave events by school students.

Prof. Richard Nelson has been active in recent discoveries of exoplanets using a variety of cutting edge methods, a topic whose details and significance is readily appreciated by the wider public. This body of work underpinned the design of a second astronomy strand of the PRiSE programme.

The SNO+ experiment is a flagship international facility (based in Sudbury, Canada) designed to search for new physics in the neutrino sector. Dr. Jeanne Wilson plays a key role in this collaboration, as co-Analysis coordinator (since 2008), and SNO+ Board Chair (2016-2017). She is also involved in the high profile T2K experiment, and the proposed HyperK experiment.

All of these experiments are affected by backgrounds from cosmic ray muons, which can also be used to calibrate detectors. The influence of detector design and calibration directly informed the design of a related PRiSE project.

Putting research into action: Supporting Students, Supporting Teachers

PRiSE enables GCSE and A-Level students to undertake scientific research over 6 months supported throughout by QMUL researchers. The projects culminate in student conferences featuring posters and talks, and have led to peer-reviewed publications containing students’ engaged research results. The high level of academic mentorship has enabled unprecedented participation and success from a diverse range of schools surpassing that achieved by competitors.

Students quantify their understanding of scientific topics and practises before and after. Whilst such surveys typically show no statistically significant behavioural change for traditional outreach approaches, PRiSE instead quantifies an overwhelmingly positive impact across all projects. Qualitative feedback from both students and teachers also evidences a wide range of newly developed skills.

Teachers on the PRiSE programme receive a high level of support throughout. Qualitative feedback has identified that they develop new lesson content and gain confidence in supporting extra-curricular activities and discussing research content with their students through their involvement. They typically run the same PRiSE project for multiple years, updating and modifying their teaching practice through the support of QMUL academics.