Physics win at Impact Awards

20 February 2019

The annual MPLS Impact Awards aim to foster and raise awareness of impact by rewarding it at a local level, and prepare the ground for the impact case studies that will be needed for REF 2021, and future similar exercises. This year’s awards were presented at the MPLS Winter Reception on the 19th February at Mansfield College, with the winners receiving a pay award of £1,000.

Congratulations to Oxford Physicist Dr Sam Henry who won the award for Public Engagement with Research Impact.

Two years ago, Sam set out to up the quality of the particle physics public engagement effort through the development of a festival stall. Sam designed a set of banners, consulting other Oxford particle physicists to present their experiments in an accessible way, and replaced old demonstrations with new kit. This stall has been deployed at numerous events including IF Oxford, the ATOM festival, Curiosity Carnival and Stargazing Oxford, reaching a total audience (since 2014) of around 10,000. They have taken the stall to the Templars Square shopping centre and Barton Community Centre, successfully targeting an audience that do not usually attend university events.

Seeking to reach a wider audience, Sam experimented with ways to engage with young people online. He found physics-themed fan fiction was much more successful than traditional blogging, both at reaching a large number of readers, and at breaking outside the bubble of existing science enthusiasts. Sam pursued this, writing stories using the My Little Pony cartoon characters as a springboard to talk about the physics of rainbows, special relativity, and nuclear reactors, and used these to draw readers to online blogs and videos about other Oxford physics research. These stories clocked up a total view-count of over 100,000 and reached an international audience of fiction and pop culture fans from all backgrounds, including many who do not usually engage with science.

If you would like to learn more about our particle physics outreach activities, please click here
If you like to learn more about Sam’s fan fiction, please click here