Skip to main content
School of Physical and Chemical Sciences

Physics and Astronomy Impact Case Studies

Impact highlights to follow.

Delivering Astronomy Research into the Classroom

Summary of the impact

Through our unique engagement with school students and teachers, astronomy research conducted by the Astronomy Unit (AU) at Queen Mary has had demonstrable impact on society by influencing, enhancing and enriching science-related education. Our activities contribute to the STEM agenda, providing support for a key government policy related to long-term economic growth. The Cassini Scientist for a Day competitions and our Media Space summer schools have raised aspirations and increased awareness and knowledge of astronomy, and have improved the scientific thinking and writing skills of over 300 school pupils from UK-wide and local secondary schools. Approximately 100 teachers have engaged with the AU's research through our Astrophysics Summer Schools. Teachers' knowledge and understanding of modern research has been developed, transforming their teaching practice by providing them with the motivation, resources and confidence to tackle complex issues in the classroom and through extracurricular activities. In survey responses, 90% of teachers report that their practice has been transformed as a result of engagement with the AU. Some teachers describe plans to introduce GCSE Astronomy into their curriculum and to establish astronomy clubs in response to attending the summer schools.

Read the full article

Let there be light: Commercial and cultural impact from optical spectroscopy

Summary of the impact

Research on the spectroscopy of materials conducted by Prof. Dunstan has led to novel innovations for the Renishaw Raman microscope that have been patented and marketed by Renishaw plc, a UK-based global instrumentation company, as part of their inVia microscope range in the form of the NeXT filter. These innovations have provided the company with significant commercial advantage over their competitors and allowed the pharmaceuticals industry to develop applications for this technology in the areas of amorphous drugs, stability testing and polymorph screening. Dunstan's spectroscopy research has also enabled him to work with Absolute Action Ltd, a company which provides bespoke lighting systems for museums, galleries, public spaces and homes. The commercial value of contracts won by Absolute Action between 2008/13 that relied on Dunstan's technical innovations is estimated to be £1m. Dunstan designed the lighting technology for the Hope Diamond displayed in the Smithsonian Institution (USA), the Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism (USA), and the gemstone collection in the Natural History Museum (UK). These lighting systems have enhanced the viewing experience of the public and attracted new visitors to the museums throughout the REF assessment period.

Read the full article

String Theory and Particle Physics Reach a Contemporary Art Audience

Summary of the impact

Few scientists in the UK have done as much as Dr David Berman and Dr Ben Still to bring the latest ideas and results from string theory and particle physics research into the contemporary art world. In 2010, Berman established an artist-in-residence post at QMUL's Centre for Research in String Theory, with Turner Prize winner Grenville Davey the first artist to take up the residency. This collaboration led to Davey creating sculptural responses to the Centre's work on generalized geometry and the role of duality, which have been exhibited widely. Berman has also collaborated with conceptual artist Jordan Wolfson for a work at the Frieze Arts Fair, which won the prestigious Cartier Award in 2009. He has given talks at the Institute for Contemporary Art, the Royal College of Art, Tate Modern and the Core Gallery, and will be curating further exhibitions in 2014. Still has initiated award-winning collaborations with artists, creating diverse artworks that draw-on QMUL's experimental research on neutrino physics, which have been exhibited at numerous venues. This work has transformed the practice of artists and brought complex theories and conceptual ideas to audiences that may not have had much previous knowledge or interest in these areas. Attracting widespread media coverage in both the arts and science press, the work has encouraged greater public discourse around string theory and particle physics.

Read the full article