UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Sarah Jeal and Dr William Dunn win UCL Widening Participation Community of Practice awards

17 January 2023

The Widening Participation Community of Practice (CoP) has recently held the first awards ceremony to recognise the outstanding staff at UCL who dedicate their time and energy to the Widening Participation (WP) practice area.

Sarah Jeal and Dr William Dunn holding their awards

The Widening Participation CoP is for staff working proactively to increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds studying at UCL. It was launched in February 2020 and has since been an active community bringing together staff working in the practice area across both central and local departments at UCL.

The Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MAPS) has marked the awards with two winners and two runners-up. Firstly, Sarah Jeal (UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction – IRDR) was recognised with a Schools and Community Award for her wholehearted commitment to WP despite her other full-time roles. 

According to the nomination, Sarah worked extremely hard to establish connections with schools and organised talks and interactive events with many to get people understanding the non-traditional subjects of risk and disaster reduction, and humanitarian studies.

Sarah commented: “Increasing access to higher education is really important to me, so I was thrilled to be nominated for the award and even more excited to win! It’s been wonderful to be recognised personally but I’m also surrounded by a dedicated team of staff and students who are enthusiastically working to expand our department’s widening participation activities. It’s been really gratifying to get such a positive response from them to anything I have put forward. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in the future!”

The second MAPS award of the night, in the Above and Beyond category, went to Dr William Dunn (UCL Physics and Astronomy) for his incredible dedication to the ORBYTS programme. Since it began, the programme expanded to over 25 schools and enabled more than 1,000 students to perform original research, providing otherwise-scarce specialist knowledge experts. 

It managed to dispel harmful stereotypes around ‘who can be a physicist’, and the schools involved in ORBYTS reported an increase in girls taking physics beyond 16 years old.

William’s infectious passion for physics is instilled in every young person in the programme. Not only has ORBYTS won a national award last year, but the whole first cohort of Year 10 ORBYTS students went on to study physics at A-Level.

Upon receiving the award, William commented: “I feel exceptionally fortunate to have had the opportunity to coordinate the amazing ORBYTS programme over the last five years and to witness it grow into a national endeavour. I feel particularly proud to have played a small part in the programme's impact in doubling the number of girls and WP students going on to take STEM subjects at our partner schools and in supporting more than 200 school students to author peer-reviewed scientific papers.” 

“However, I also feel a little fraudulent, since a huge number of inspirational researchers across UCL MAPS and BEAMS, Northumbria, Kent and Leicester Universities should also be recognised for their role in this profound impact, and ORBYTS simply wouldn't exist without the support of the UCL WP department, so we are hugely grateful to them.”

Rokia Ballo at Burlington Danes Academy
The runner-up for the Above and Beyond Award was UCL Science and Technology Studies (STS) PhD student Rokia Ballo. She was recognised for her outstanding work leading an engaging, “eye-opening” and highly praised Black History Month Widening Participation event at Burlington Danes Academy as part of STS’s Change the Narrative project. The event focused on celebrating Black innovations in the history of science and challenging present-day exclusion.

Dr Tamara Alhilfi holding her certificate
Finally, Dr Tamara Alhilfi (UCL Chemistry) was named as the runner-up of the Student Success Award for her wonderful and tireless work as an ambassador for WP by contributing to numerous committees, such as the Mathematics and Physical Sciences WP working group and EDI committee, as well as showing significant dedication to closing the BAME awarding gap across all MAPS departments at UCL.



  • Top: Sarah Jeal (left) and Dr William Dunn (right). Credit: Ingrida Bertasiute.
  • Middle: Rokia Ballo at Black History Month Widening Participation event in at Burlington Danes Academy. Credit: Alejandro Salinas.
  • Bottom: Dr Tamara Alhilfi. Credit: Ingrida Bertasiute.

Media Contact 

Ingrida Bertasiute
i.bertasiute [at] ucl.ac.uk