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Warwick Astronomy Knowledge Exchange

The Warwick Astronomy and Astrophysics Knowledge Exchange (WAKE) is a unique programme designed to diversify the recruitment at all career stages within a subject area known for having poor representation of a diverse background of applicants as well as support local students from under-represented communities within astronomy.

The programme aims to: 
  • Attract an increase in the diversity of people applying for opportunities at Warwick especially from countries under-represented in the field of astronomy. 
  • Increase the awareness of the Warwick University Astronomy Group and diversify the recruitment at all career stages within a subject area known for having poor representation of a diverse background of applicants. 
  • Give students and staff at Warwick an opportunity to create new routes to collaboration and knowledge exchange with skilled astronomy students and staff from countries that are under-represented in applications, whilst improving access to and participation in research at Warwick.
What was done:

The WAKE programme was made up of two parts. The first part consisted of inviting eight participants (out of 139 who applied) from countries all across the world with under-represented astronomy programmes to come to Warwick to attend a 2 week fully financially supported knowledge programme developed by staff and students within the group. The second part consisted of local Warwick students from under-represented groups being given the opportunities to attend some form of knowledge exchange (such as attending conferences or visiting collaborating institutes) thereby limiting the negative impact of the COVID pandemic.


The benefits to those who partook in the first WAKE programme (last year) is expected to first become transparent in 1-2 years once those attending the WAKE programme have started applying for opportunities at Warwick. Several results have already been achieved.

Strong collaboration links have been established between several of the WAKE visitors. Examples include new collaboration with the Sustainable Space Domain Awerness Group and White Dwarf group who have begun collaborations with some of the attendees.

Career changing opportunities for under-represented astronomy students at Warwick: The impact of COVID-19 has unquestionably affected all current PhD students severely limiting their opportunities to develop their research careers. An example includes the lack of collaboration opportunities and being able to attend international conferences. The WAKE programme has so far played an important role in reversing these misfortunes resulting form the pandemic by providing career enhancing opportunities. An example of this was how WAKE financially supported a young female astronomer to carry out a proposed collaboration with University of Baltimore which lead to a publication in Nature which the student was lead author.

Bridging the gap between students and staff

The organisation of a two week knowledge exchange programme galvanised the local PhD students to take leadership and organise workshops on key topics which not only resulted in a diverse programme but gave them the opportunity and confidence to gain experience giving workshops and teaching. The WAKE project also successfully engaged staff to come meet with the participants and seek out new routes for collaboration. The WAKE programme gave the students and staff at Warwick a new opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration within the department as they all worked towards the common goal of successfully hosting eight visitors for two weeks and proving them with a suite of workshops and discussions for them to attend. It lead to close (and perhaps unexpected) collaboration between Warwick staff and students from very different research fields.

Why it should win the Social Inclusion Staff Award:

WAKE has so far made an outstanding contribution to progressing social inclusion and enhancing the diversity within the astronomy group at Warwick by giving opportunities for under-represented astronomy students to meet and collaborate with our group. It has proven that it can provide career changing opportunities for Warwick students. Finally it has brought together staff and students independently of research fields.

WAKE has been nominated for the Social Inclusion Staff Award!

Poster about WAKE:

WAKE posterLink opens in a new window

Image of Dhanushka Amaradasa

The economic troubles in my country has made it hard to focus on my career. As the domestic troubles have increased I have noticed people in my field leaving the country which is demotivational. The WAKE programme and my new collaboration with Warwich has given me a good motivation to continue my career. The WAKE programme gave me the opportunitiy to finally meet most of the people I cite in my work. Being listed on the WAKE website and since having attended the programme I have found that people now respond to my emails. As a result I have 4 PhD interviews in the UK lined up, and hope I hope to apply to Warwick in the autumn.

- Dhanuska from Sri Lanka


For questions about the project please contact:

Dr. Paul Strøm or Dr. Heather Cegla