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Let's get physic-al! STEM event in Inverness encourages pupils to pursue physics

By Andrew Dixon

Two pupils with Stuart Farmer, the educational manager in Scotland for the Institute of Physics, and physics teacher David Vincent.
Two pupils with Stuart Farmer, the educational manager in Scotland for the Institute of Physics, and physics teacher David Vincent.

The next Marie Curie or Katherine Johnson could be in the crowd as Charleston Academy hosted Scotland’s best and brightest to encourage girls to pursue physics.

With a focus on encouraging girls to take physics beyond National 5 level, an impressive array of female industry and academic experts gathered in Inverness for a first-of-its-kind interactive session.

There has been a concerted effort from both government and industry in recent years to encourage more young women to pursue careers in the historically male-dominated fields of science and technology – something that is supported by the Developing the Young Workforce initiative launched in 2014.

Physics still lags behind with girls making up less than one in three entrants to Higher physics. Now there is more emphasis than ever being placed on bridging that gap.

Led by the Institute of Physics, the event brought together more than 100 female S3 pupils from across the Highlands with the aim of providing positive role models and highlighting that a future in physics can be fun, fascinating and for them.

Gail Millar a volunteer with the institute, said: “This event is an expansion of the events which have been successfully run in Lockerbie, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and Dundee for the past 11 years. I am delighted that I have been able to bring the event to the Highlands so that we can showcase the opportunities in physics and engineering to girls”

David Vincent, physics teacher at Charleston Academy, said: “The students feel valued and inspired by quality events like this. Working with scientists, engineers and educators who they would not normally come into contact with has provided them with a unique view of the scientific community and how much fun it could be. The girls were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the day and it was an excellent event that we will want to repeat.”

As advances in technology bring more jobs requiring skills in the sciences to the Highlands there is an ever-increasing desire to make sure young people have every opportunity to take advantage.

Andy Maxtone, programme manager at Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Inverness and Central Highland, said: “Encouraging girls from across the Highlands to pursue studies in physics and other STEM subjects is really important. We have so many talented young women in the region who can not only develop the skills to build careers for themselves, but also make brilliant contributions to science and society.”

Pupils from Charleston Academy were joined by groups from Millburn Academy, Farr High School, Inverness Royal Academy, Inverness High School, Fortrose Academy and Elgin Academy.

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