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Celebrating our People: Rachel Edwards

Rachel Edwards is Associate Professor (Reader) in the Physics department, and the winner of the Public Engagement University Award 2017. She writes about her work and what winning this award means for her and her department.

Tell us a bit about your role:

I'm a lecturer in the Physics department. My day to day job is split between teaching and research. My research is into applications of ultrasound, for example using sound waves to analyse the properties of new materials, or to look for cracks in railway tracks. I sometimes get the chance to talk about physics to visitors, or travel to schools, and show them how amazing the subject is as part of the Department of Physics' Outreach Programme."

How would you define your project?

I was nominated for the Public Engagement award. This was for the work that I do outside of my normal duties - namely being over-enthusiastic about physics to school children and the general public! Last year I went to visit quite a few schools, including talking to primary school children about how to design a rollercoaster, and how to keep it safe. I also did a Christmas lecture about how to survive in a cartoon universe, looking at what science we could use to fit in with cartoon characters."

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Going above and beyond your role:

It's challenging to find the time to do it, alongside all my other jobs! Fortunately the department is very supportive."

How does it feel to have won the Public Engagement University Award?

Although I won the individual award, I couldn't do this without help from a team which includes PhD students, postdocs, Ally Caldecote, and various undergraduates. I know I can always count on them. Getting the award was lovely - it's nice to know that people appreciate what I do. I do the outreach because it's fun, and is sometimes an award in itself - when I see children being enthusiastic about science I get more enthusiastic too."

What would you like to say to the person(s) who nominated you?

Thanks :D

Extract from Rachel's nomination:‘Rachel probably does more outreach activities than any other member of staff in the Physics Department. This almost always involves doing activities in the evenings or at weekends. When she does outreach in the week, because the level of effort falls outside her expected role, it often means that she needs to do additional work outside normal hours just to catch up because she has undertaken outreach. Whilst we expect all staff to do some outreach, Rachel undertakes this with a level of effort and enthusiasm that goes way beyond what we could usually expect or hope for. Without Rachel’s involvement and leadership, many of the outreach events or activities that we have been able to deliver would probably not have happened.”

Why do you think people should nominate next time (for the 2018 University Awards):

Because it's nice to show someone that you think they're doing a good job."


Photos: Michelle Tennison


Spend half a day with Rachel as part of our work shadowing programme.