UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Funded EDI Projects

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 2002-3.

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.