UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy


Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Since its establishment in 1826, UCL has a long history of fighting for equality and diversity. It was the first university to admit students of any race or religious or political beliefs. In 1878, UCL was the first to accept women on equal terms with men, and in 1893 UCL was the first in England to establish a students’ union.  

Over 180 years later that drive for equality is ever present and our department operates on principles of good practice that promote transparency and fairness.

Juno Champion / Athena Silver Award

Juno Champion, Athena Swan logos

The department has worked hard to address the under-representation of women in university physics and encourage better working conditions for both, women and men. We are proud to have a higher than average representation of females among our students and academic staff.

We have achieved a Juno Champion award, which recognises and rewards departments who demonstrate they have taken action to address the under-representation of women in Physics. Project Juno is run by the Institute of Physics.

The Juno Champion award is the equivalent of the Athena Swan Silver award. The Athena SWAN charter recognises and celebrates good employment practices for women working in higher education and research. It aims to assist the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) and promote good practice.

UCL: Taking Action for Equality

UCL's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy aims to foster a positive cultural climate where all staff and students can flourish, where no-one will feel compelled to conceal or play down elements of their identity for fear of stigma. UCL will be a place where people can be authentic and their unique perspective, experiences and skills seen as a valuable asset to the institution. 

Message from Head of Department June 2020

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. I take pride in the fact that our Department is so greatly enriched by its diverse and international community. We strive to create an environment in which everyone feels able to participate to their full potential and are valued for their contributions. All avenues of work in this Department are stronger when they derive from a community grounded in respect and diversity. I believe that creating this positive and inclusive work environment is a responsibility shared by all the members of our Department, and we all have a role in breaking down the inequalities that are present because of differences in race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, religious belief, disabilities, caring responsibilities and all protected characteristics. I recognise that we must not be complacent and there is still considerable progress to be made. The challenge of attracting more Black students and staff into pursuing physics and astrophysics in this department is an enormous and complex example, but not without solutions. Many Black students at school perceive other university degree subjects are more supportive and rewarding, resulting in a loss of talent to physics and astrophysics. The challenge and opportunity for us to discuss, debate and act on is how we can take advantage of the early school interests shown by Black students for physics and nurture this interest, engage in their burgeoning science aspirations, and support their learning. The relatively few Black undergraduate and postgraduate students that do elect to study in our Department must, as indeed should all students, experience lecturers, mentors, tutors, staff and peer interactions that give them a strong sense of belonging. We cannot, and must not, accept any factors that negatively impact on students’ sense of belonging in our department, and we must guard against unconscious bias, microaggressions and stereotype threat.  Through the Department’s student societies, PDRA network, listening groups, EDI committees and – above all – its individual members, we should aim to continually communicate values of respect and inclusion through our actions, physical environment, degree education content, and work to eradicate acts motivated by bias and racism. I call on you all to be active bystanders, to look out for one another and be assured that you will be supported by the department if you report any racist behaviours you may be witness to.

Friend of Out @ UCL

Friends of Out @ UCL - square logo

Diversity and inclusion are at the core of UCL’s ethos and history. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of UCL, was one of the earliest philosophers to argue for decriminalisation of homosexuality and equal rights for homosexuals and we hope that this egalitarian tradition continues to the present day. Out@UCL wish to create an inclusive environment where LGBTQ+ staff, students and visitors can be themselves, which includes feeling comfortable enough to be out.

Professor Ivan Parkin - Dean, UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Professor Ivan Parkin, Dean, UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

I fully support the aims of the Friends of Out@UCL campaign. I have personal experience of the need for such a campaign and the difficulties that the LGBTQ+ community face.

Two close family members are members of this community. One who helped in part to bring me up was in a same-sex relationship for more than 45 years and faced extreme discrimination because her sexual orientation was not accepted by society - especially in the 1970's. The other has recently entered a same-sex relationship.

I firmly believe that all people should be treated the same no matter who they are- everyone deserves respect and understanding and no one form of love is superior to another.

Commitment to Preventing Bullying and Harassment

Astro Group and departmental commitment to preventing bullying and harassment

Race Equality Pledge Physics and Astronomy

As part of a wider UCL initiative, the Department has committed to the following pledges to promote equality and inclusion of underrepresented groups, especially with regards to race.

Race equality pledge Physics and Astronomy

  • Raise awareness of, and challenge, the predominant white and male role model representation in the Physics and Astronomy curriculum. Every module taught by P&A staff to develop portraits of eminent scientists from underrepresented groups in their fields as role models. Portrait information collected by the Department to ensure diversity and comprehensiveness.
  • Implement a PhD buddy system across the Department. Assign new PhDs to an existing senior student. The buddies will be provided with access to EDI resources and encouraged to undergo training, e.g. with regards to unconscious bias. Evaluate impact of scheme with bi-/annual surveys.
  • Keep track of speaker backgrounds more comprehensively across the Department. Increase the share of speakers from BAME backgrounds at seminars and outreach talks, also exploring the potential to reach out to global universities outside the traditional physics institutions via online sessions.
  • Encourage at least one member of staff in the Department to be trained as a Fair Recruitment Specialist, and trial the scheme in at least one recruitment within the Department, with subsequent evaluation.

For more information and the 2020 Submission and action plan, please see UCL's Race Equality Charter webpage.

Staff and Student profiles - International Day of Women and Girls in Science

For IDWGS, we've created some profiles of our current staff and students, to demonstrate the experiences of women in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCL.

Undergraduate Student - Maria Avramidou

Postgraduate Student - Veera Mikola

Staff member - Professor Amelie Saintonge

For IDWGS, we've created some profiles of our current staff and students, to demonstrate the experiences of women in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCL.

Undergraduate Student - Maria Avramidou

Postgraduate Student - Veera Mikola

Staff member - Professor Amelie Saintonge

Women in Physics Group

The UCL Women in Physics Group began in 2006 and was restarted in 2014, running continuously since then. Previous group leads include Dr Emily Milner, Dr Anna Ploszajski and Dr Lia Li, with PhD student Abbie Bray acting as the current group lead.

For more information, including recordings of some of their talks, visit the Women in Physics Group page.