UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Funded EDI Projects

Congratulations and thank you to all the EDI projects that have received funding for the period December 2022 - July 2023. Information on all the projects awarded funding can be found below. 


Women in Number Theory and Geometry (WINGs) Conference 2023

Project Number: EDI-2
Amount Given: £3,000

Project Lead: Michela Barbieri (ucahbar@ucl.ac.uk

WINGs 2023 is the third edition of the Women In Number Theory and Geometry annual retreat for early career researchers in mathematics. We will be holding the conference from the 17th to the 20th of April at Ringwood Hall. The first edition was held online in January 2021 (in response to the Coronavirus pandemic), and the second edition was held in person in June 2022. Both were a remarkable success; therefore, we would like to organise another conference this year. The retreat is open to women and other underrepresented genders. It aims to counteract any isolation felt during their Mathematics career. The conference will foster a sense of community through the planned events. These include social activities, short talks from PhD students, and keynote talks from established mathematicians. The latter will serve the dual role of sharing new research topics in geometry and number theory as well as the speakers’ personal stories and their Mathematics career journey.

Orbyts: Research in Schools

Project Number: EDI-3
Amount Given: £2,939.76

Project Lead: Abbie Bray (a.bray@ucl.ac.uk

Orbyts is a multi-award-winning movement that partners scientists with schools to empower school students to undertake world-leading research. Our goal is to address diversity issues in science and to support short-supply science teachers who have extensive time pressures. We accomplish this through a multi-term partnership that is proven to transform science inclusivity, inspire school students and teachers, and ignite scientists' leadership potential. 50+% of any Orbyts group must be pupil premium (PP - a metric for disadvantaged backgrounds) or SEND and 50+% must be girls and/or minority genders. The programme sees 100% increases in girls taking A-level physics when run in schools at the GCSE level. It has supported more than 220 school students to author papers since 2018. In recognition of its impact on those from disadvantaged backgrounds, it was awarded the 2021 NEON award for widening access to education.

Queer in Number Theory and Geometry (QuING)

Project Number: EDI-4
Amount Given: £1,500

Project Lead: Enric Sole-Farre (ucaheso@ucl.ac.uk

The event Queer in Number Theory and Geometry is a student-run workshop targeted at queer researchers in the fields of Number Theory and Geometry, primarily early career researchers (PhD and postdocs). The event is an opportunity for all attendees to discuss active research topics and make contacts with other queer researchers working on related topics facilitating future collaborations. The QuINGs 2023 event is planned over three days (30th August - 2nd September) in the West Lexham Retreat in Norfolk. The research talks will be combined with social activities and discussion sessions about queer inclusion in math academia and teaching. QuINGs 2023 will be the first edition of an event of this type in the UK and Europe (as far as the organising committee is aware) and will be the first one specifically aimed at early researchers.

LGBTQ+ STEM London Conference 2023

Project Number: EDI-5
Amount Given: £2,100

Project Lead: Luciano Rila (l.rila@ucl.ac.uk)   

Few conferences specifically showcase the work of LGBTQ+ academics, particularly those working in STEM. This conference, organised by the LGBTQ+ STEM @ UCL Network, will highlight and raise the visibility of LGBTQ+ postgraduate students and staff working in STEM. Following the success of last year’s conference which focused on the UCL Community only, this year we would like to extend the project to include other London universities. Last year’s conference feedback was very positive with 80% of 30 respondents strongly agreeing that the conference inspired and engaged with the LGBTQ+ community and raised the visibility of LGBTQ+ students and staff (with the remaining 20% agreeing).

The afternoon conference will take place during Pride Month (June 2023) and will consist of a poster session, a series of talks and a reception. The LGBTQ+ STEM @UCL Network committee will review applications for posters and talks and select around 15 posters and 10 talks. The Student Union Activities and Engagement officer, Mary McHarg, and Out@UCL will help us consult with other London institutions.

Prof. Bethany Marsh (University of Leeds) will be our keynote speaker. She won the Whitehead Prize in 2009 and was more recently featured in the Isaac Newton Institute of Mathematical Sciences podcast (Living Proof), ‘Becoming Bethany Marsh, life as a transgender Professor of Mathematics’.

UCL Astro-Shift25 Summer Internships - Second Cohort

Project Number: EDI-6
Amount Given: £1,000

Project Lead: Nick Achilleos (nicholas.achilleos@ucl.ac.uk

UCL Astrophysics Group, in partnership with Shift25 anti-racist initiative, formed a partnership this year (2022) which resulted in the recruitment of four high-school summer interns from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds. The interns were supervised by Astrophysics staff and students, working on projects related to planetary science and star formation in galaxies. This led to the interns presenting their results at a 'mini-conference' for all Astro interns from various other schemes during September and visited the UCL Observatory. The feedback was positive indicating a good impression of working in a research environment. Members of Shift25 helped recruitment, spoke at the final event, and will offer external mentoring as the cohort now progresses with university and senior high school. Next year, we wish to recruit a second cohort. We would recruit around late June 2023, with the intern's induction shortly afterwards. The announcements for project abstracts from potential supervisors across Faculty will be issued and provide the cohort with a greater variety of projects to choose from than in 2022.

MAPS Going Beyond Scheme and Awards for students (#GoBeyond)

Project Number: EDI-7
Amount Given: £1,200

Project Lead: Luke Davis (luke.davis@ucl.ac.uk)   

The current state of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in academic science is far from what it can and should be with significant under-representation of ethnic, gender, LGBTQIA+, disability, neurodivergent, religious, and socio-economic groups. Indeed, science itself loses out on the multifarious benefits that these currently under-represented (UR) groups bring to the table. A mechanism for changing science for the better is to change the culture of scientists themselves. We need to start rewarding and encouraging scientists that proactively im- prove the inclusiveness of UR groups in their current science environment. The MAPS Going Beyond Scheme and Awards (#GoBeyond) aims to teach, inspire, and reward MAPS students, the next generation of scientific leaders, to go beyond just academic achievement and make an inspiring and significant impact on UR communities. The #GoBeyond scheme involves hosting three workshops for students led and run by diverse scientists from around the UK who are leaders in their field of research and/or are making inspiring efforts to improve EDI in their respective scientific environments. The two #GoBeyond awards recognise two students from MAPS who go beyond what is expected of them through a combination of both academic and research efforts and EDI accomplishments.

Supporting the Transition and Progression of AccessUCL (Widening Participation) Students at a Local Level within the MAPS Faculty

Project Number: EDI-8
Amount Given: £2,800

Project Lead: Sophia MacBlain (s.macblain@ucl.ac.uk

MAPS has seen a significant increase in the size of its AccessUCL student community (widening participation). While the central AccessUCL team have provided a great deal of pre-enrolment support and guidance, limited resources and support have continued for this student group as they progress through the first year of the undergraduate programmes in the faculties. In addition to limited local support and understanding of what the students would like and value, departmental staff are unclear on how to best support this emerging student group.

This project places student partnership at its core to understand the experience and perspectives of the MAPS AccessUCL student community, before co-creating student-facing support and guidance for teaching and administrative staff. We aim to strengthen inclusive teaching environments by recognising and sharing learnings from this growing UCL community.

WIN: Women in Nano

Project Number: EDI-9
Amount Given: £1,500

Project Lead: Carla Perez Martinez (carla.perezmartinez@ucl.ac.uk

This project will formalise a group for Women in Nano (WIN) based at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. We seek resources to establish a regular program of talks, panel discussions and networking lunches to promote well-being and inclusion and to educate and inspire our community. The project addresses the underrepresentation of intersectionality groups in STEM academia. For example, 2021 data shows that the proportion of registered students at the LCN who identify as female is around a third of the total and the fraction is less than 10% for the academic staffing group. The project will also seek to address the marginalisation of other groups.

Automatic anonymisation of PhD application forms from Portico

Project Number: EDI-10
Amount Given: £1,500

Project Lead: Anasuya Aruliah (a.aruliah@ucl.ac.uk

Implicit bias in selection processes has been identified and researched over many years. There are recorded step changes in demographics when applications and proposals are made anonymous. The London NERC DTP anonymised PhD forms by hand for the first-time last year, and as a part of several other measures, doubled their diversity percentage. MSSL has also tried it. MAPS has established a strong EDI Strategic Plan, and anonymising applications before sifting for long lists should be part of the process. Downloading and assimilating application is already an unnecessarily laborious task for Admissions teams. To add to the burden of anonymising applications forms and references is too much to ask. This pilot project aims to automate this process by creating a computational pipeline to download, compile and anonymise all the forms (including references and applicant institutions) associated with an individual application to the DIS CDT; to roll it out to the rest of UCL.

Promoting Knowledge and Practice Exchange on Inclusive Education between UCL and the University of Nairobi Kenya

Project Number: EDI-11
Amount Given:

Project Lead: George Giannopoulos (g.giannopoulos@ucl.ac.uk

It has been said that in Africa that “education is an equaliser” and can enable marginalised populations to rid themselves of ignorance, poverty, and disempowerment. The University of Nairobi (UoN) is the largest in Kenya with an enrolment of about 80,000 students. UCL is London’s Global University with students enrolling from more than 140 countries. The diversity of learners at UoN ranges from those with disabilities, Indigenous origins, rural populations, minority groups, nomadic youth, and those living with HIV and AIDs, among others. This study starts from the assumption that ongoing reforms and new policies in Higher Education endeavour to encompass inclusivity and equality to eliminate stereotypes and reduce biases, discrimination, and intolerance. The proposed research, drawing on the funding offered, will set the ground for the investigation of Equality-Diversity-Inclusion (EDI) policies and strategies at UCL and UoN, including interviews with the Department of Physics and Astronomy (PHAS), the Centre for Inclusive Education at the IOE, members of the EDI committees of PHAS and IOE, students and staff from diverse backgrounds. Our colleague at the UoN, who is the Chair of the Mentoring, Welfare and Gender mainstreaming committee, will conduct a similar analysis in her department. 

Muslim Women In STEM Union (MWISU)

Project Number: EDI-12
Amount Given: £1,500

Project Lead: Anika Tasnim Aynul (anika.aynul.18@ucl.ac.uk

MWISU is a safe space and support network for Muslim women who have a faith-based interest in STEM. There is a lack of representation in this space as well as a lack of support for our community, therefore our vision is to bridge this gap through this initiative. We will provide tailored support through an Islamic framework to young Muslim women who are interested in pursuing STEM-related careers but lack mentors to help them navigate through the process. We strive to counter the false narrative that a person’s religious beliefs function as an impediment to scientific progress by highlighting contemporary examples of Muslim women scientists in a Zoom Webinar series who are shaping the STEM landscape with their work while preserving their Islamic principles. We will also have a panel discussion with Muslim women STEM professionals and an Islamic scholar to address pertinent issues which affect Muslim women in the STEM field and provide insights about personal and academic development through a purely Islamic lens. This echoes the sentiment of prominent scientists in the Islamic Golden Age which is the approach that we wish to revive. 

Congratulations and thank you to all the EDI projects that have received funding for the period December 2021 - July 2022. Information on all the projects awarded funding can be found below. 

Enhancing the UCL Physics & Astronomy Women in Physics Group Online Accessibility

Project Number: EDI-1
Amount Given: £1,800 

Project Lead: Abbie Bray (a.bray@ucl.ac.uk)

This project aims to strengthen the impact of the work developed by the Women in Physics group through acquiring filming and recording equipment that will allow us to increase the reach and accessibility of our diversity and inclusion activities. The Women in Physics group has been a student-led organisation in the UCL Physics & Astronomy department for more than 15 years. We pride ourselves in hosting a variety of events to educate and inspire the UCL community and beyond, to address the issues that limit the participation of a wider range of people in Physics. For the past 3 years, we have evolved from discussing “women-centric” themes to consider all aspects at the intersection of overlapping systems of disadvantage and inequity. With this aim, we have hosted regular talks and training which are shared with a larger community via our YouTube channel. As we recover from the pandemic, we would like to hold more events in person while still ensuring high-quality recordings of these events that will allow us to make them accessible to wider audiences. This funding will therefore help us acquire the necessary equipment to realise our activities and achieve the impact expected.

Supporting AccessUCL Students' Transition to University

Project Number: EDI-2
Amount Given: £2,860 

Project Lead: Dewi Lewis (d.w.lewis@ucl.ac.uk)

Students from identified Widening Participation backgrounds often find difficulties in the transition to university study for many and varied reasons, but often due to a lack of confidence (imposter syndrome), a lack of experience and opportunities to develop laboratory skills and time management skills. Here, we wish to scope out through our current accessUCL cohorts key resources that we can develop. Students themselves will contribute their “stories” to establish a living guide to studying chemistry. We will also recruit from this cohort to help us develop a modified laboratory “bootcamp” which we will establish for the academic year 2022/3. Furthermore, they will assist in developing a modified “home lab” kit that we will offer to applicant AccessUCL students in future admissions cycles to not only support their study but to encourage them to select UCL.

Resources and Networking for Neurodiverse Chemistry Students

Project Number: EDI-3
Amount Given: £2,570 

Project Lead: River Riley (r.riley@ucl.ac.uk)  

Neurodiverse students face significant challenges on entering a university learning environment and specifically a laboratory environment. UCL Wellbeing provide central (and hence, rightly, generic resources). Here we wish to first understand better the specific difficulties encountered on a chemistry degree – much of which can be translated and shared with other degrees where laboratory is a major component – and to develop local resources, enable modifications to the curriculum – so that all students can succeed. We will also develop and trial a laboratory skills course which we will embed in induction events for those identifying as neurodiverse. We will use focus groups, discussions with SSW/Arena experts to identify and customize resources. We will also recruit a neurodiverse student to help us develop a modified laboratory “bootcamp” which we will establish for the academic year 2022-3.

UCL LGBTQ+ STEM Festival 2022

Project Number: EDI-5
Amount Given: £2,187.10 

Project Lead: Luciano Rila (l.rila@ucl.ac.uk)   

Few conferences specifically showcase projects and work by LGBTQ+ academics. The Festival, organised by the LGBTQ+ STEM @UCL Network, will highlight and raise the visibility of postgraduate students and staff who identify as LGBTQ+ and work in STEM at UCL. This project will include two events, one in February (LGBTQ+ History Month) and the other one in June (Pride Month) 2022, which align with larger initiatives and broader discussions in society: An afternoon conference entitled “Celebrating the work of the UCL LGBTQ+ STEM community”, where staff and postgraduate students will be invited to present their research and teaching through posters and oral presentations. Sir Dermot Turing, Alan Turing’s nephew, will be the keynote speaker for the event. A poster exhibition entitled “LGBTQ+ STEM Faces at UCL” in the UCL Student Centre (TBC). This will showcase the profile of 10-15 postgraduate students and staff members. This exhibition will take place for as long as possible, at minimum 3-5 days, and will culminate in a reception, which will be an opportunity for the UCL community to meet the individuals included in the exhibition and learn about their experiences.

WINGs Spring Retreat 2022

Project Number: EDI-7
Amount Given: £2,000 

Project Lead: Holly Green (h.green.19@ucl.ac.uk)  

WINGs 2022 is the second edition of the Women In Number Theory and Geometry annual retreat (website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucahhgr/wings.html) for early career researchers in mathematics. The first edition was held online in January 2021 (in response to the Coronavirus pandemic) and it was a remarkable success. The retreat is open to women, and other underrepresented genders, and it aims to counteract the isolation which can be experienced by these genders during a career in mathematics. A sense of community will be fostered through the planned events; these include various social activities, short talks from PhD students, and keynote talks from established mathematicians. The latter of these will serve the dual role of sharing new research topics in geometry and number theory as well as the personal stories of the speakers and their journeys in a career in mathematics.

Understanding and supporting the experiences and needs of minority students within Science and Technology Studies

Project Number: EDI-8
Amount Given: £2,600 

Project Lead: Simon Lock (simon.lock@ucl.ac.uk)   

This project aims to understand and support the experiences and needs of BAME, LGBTQ+, people with disability and neurodivergence and female students in the Department of Science and Technology Studies. We aim to hold five focus groups with students from different minority groups each led by a PGR student from that same group. The data will be analysed to produce recommendations for how to develop a supportive environment and strengthen inclusive and enabling practices within the department to support the needs of diverse groups of students. These recommendations will be implemented via the department’s EDI and Athena Swan committees, and staff student networks for LGBTQ+, BAME and overseas students will be established to continue the work and provide supportive spaces for study and work, to provide social activities, as well as to campaign on behalf and raise awareness of issues specific to these groups.

Promoting an inclusive departmental culture

Project Number: EDI-9
Amount Given: £3,000 

Project Lead: Vincent Van Eylen (v.vaneylen@ucl.ac.uk)  

As part of the departmental EDI committee and the lead of its working group related to "inclusive culture", I am seeking funds to set up a department-wide seminar series related to inclusive culture. Topics under consideration include e.g., widening participation, barriers to entry in education, race town hall, where to draw the line, how to write an effective recommendation letter, inequality within a global pandemic, fair recruitment, and others. Particular focus will be given to ethnic diversity, and separate to this new seminar series, some funding support is sought to help write an effective departmental Race Equity Plan. While some expertise is available within the department and within the university, previous experience shows that external expertise can significantly enhance the conversation but does require funds to support speaker travel and speaker fees, and specific EDI-related expertise as relevant.

Women Shaping Materials Science

Project Number: EDI-11
Amount Given: £3,000 

Project Lead: Leila Negahdar (l.negahdar@ucl.ac.uk)  

Our proposed project will connect with the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) to provide early career female scientists (students and staff) an opportunity to hear from a selection of prominent established early-mid career Women within the materials science sector and attend a networking session. The speakers list will be comprised of professionals from both academic and industry sectors and will speak about their own personal and professional journeys through the materials science and wider STEM world, offering insights into career progression and the specific challenges facing Women in said fields. The format will be a half day, encompassing a combination of talks interspersed with interactive sessions, in which attendees may engage with speakers in both formal and informal capacities. Lunch will be provided in the SCI Garden room, during which time speakers and other female scientists from renowned chemical industries, as well as academia, will be present and available for networking and informal conversations. We aim to tie our event to international womens day, however due to term schedules we are looking to host this event during the week of 21-25 March (Likely 25th).

How I Got Here: A podcast exploring the challenges and support UCL staff and students have received

Project Number: EDI-12
Amount Given: £3,000 

Project Lead: Henry Bennie (h.bennie@ucl.ac.uk)  

Our lives are impacted by our school teachers, our supervisors, members of our own community groups, our idols, and our detractors. Our podcast will allow a member of UCL (student or staff) to interview the people that shaped their lives. In 3 or 4 conversations/interviews a member of UCL will explore topics related to EDI and their own careers/research/studies. This format will empower the interviewers to explore the barriers they have faced and discuss with people from their lives that helped them overcome these barriers or had a similar experience with different outcomes. We aim to create a series of 5 episodes in the first round. Each interviewer will work with Henry Bennie to create a narrative and explore who they could interview. The aim of these conversations is to highlight how small personal interactions build the foundations of EDI in organisations - that everything we do and everyone has a responsibility to understand the challenges other face and how they can change or support the people around them at UCL.

PandA – A Centralised Social Media Platform for UCL Physics and Astronomy Engagement with Research

Project Number: EDI-14
Amount Given:

Project Lead: Saad Shaikh (saad.shaikh.15@ucl.ac.uk)  

PandA (stylisation of “Physics and Astronomy”) works towards making UCL Physics and Astronomy (P&A) a more welcoming and interconnected community, promoting activities outside of research which encourage inter-echelon collaboration. Building on its successful yearly PandA Day events, we now aim to mobilise PandA towards EDI and widening participation. A recurring issue in EDI work is that much of the responsibility is directly shouldered by those who are affected by these problems, relying on their free-time and good-will. It is also apparent that P&A has no maintained presence on platforms like YouTube, which misses key target demographics and the longevity and reach that online content provides. We seek to develop an outward-facing version of PandA to serve as a centralised platform for all UCL P&A EDI and widening participation initiatives. At the heart of this platform is the expertise in online content production and social media management; allowing initiatives to combine their disparate audiences and utilise in-house knowledge of audio/video production. This enables all EDI initiatives to develop new ideas and support each other, ensuring a more consistent stream of content – crucial for any successful social media channel – and encouraging a more intersectional approach to institutional change.

Towards reducing fieldwork-related inclusivity barriers in Earth Sciences

Project Number: EDI-15
Amount Given: £3,000 

Project Lead: Andrew Thomson (a.r.thomson@ucl.ac.uk)

The study of Natasha Dowie et al. (2021), published as a commentary in Nature [1], identified one of the barriers that continues to deter students from minority groups fully engaging in the Geosciences as those related to the fieldwork elements of degree programs. These included issues surrounding potential cultural sensitivities, a general lack of inclusivity for those from “non-traditional” (i.e., for Geoscience students) backgrounds and the potential for incidents of harassment to occur during field-based classes. In addition to these perceived barriers, the additional financial costs associated with purchasing the necessary, and specialist, field equipment were also identified as a practical barrier that is likely to further deter the interest and active participation of those from minority and less affluent backgrounds in Geosciences subjects. This project aims to act as a first step towards breaking down some of these fieldwork-related barriers within the Department of Earth Sciences at UCL by sponsoring field equipment kits for UG students from low socio-economic and/or diverse ethnic backgrounds, which are two underrepresented groups that largely overlap with each other.

[1] Dowey, N., Barclay, J., Fernando, B. et al. A UK perspective on tackling the geoscience racial diversity crisis in the Global NorthNat. Geosci. 14, 256–259 (2021).

Decolonisation of the Earth Sciences Curriculum: Digging into its Colonial Roots

Project Number: EDI-16Amount Given: £2,985
Project Lead: Maxim Ballmer (m.ballmer@ucl.ac.uk)

We propose 2 projects of 3.5 weeks' duration, working to decolonise the undergraduate Earth Science curriculum, with each resulting in a piece of research relating to key topics in the existing curriculum e.g. on links with slavery, exploitation of local environments and people, etc. The findings of the research could be presented in the format of choice, such as a short film or written report, and would be published e.g. on the department's website and distributed alongside course materials for future years of the course, along with information on how and why the research took place, ie by a student, as part of this MAPS initiative. We hope this would inspire staff and students to consider the background and history relating to the science they are teaching and learning and consider the human and environmental impacts of our research. This is especially important for Earth Sciences because of the history and nature of the research undertaken in this field. This would provide 2 students with unique research experience over summer, on topics which are complementary and highly relevant to the scientific curriculum taught in Earth Sciences. The opportunities would be open to all UCL Earth Science students.