Particle physics research

Liverpool student receives scholarship from Physics Research Institute’s Innovative Scholarship Fund – News

Abbie Chadwick from the Physics Department at the University of Liverpool has been awarded one of this year’s prestigious scholarships from the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund.

Abbie is working on a PhD in particle physics and her research spans two areas within the LHCb (Large Hadron Collider Beauty) experiment at CERN. It aims to understand the low mixing angle deviation in the standard model, which will help in probing the standard model. She is also involved in commissioning the VELO upgrade into the experiment, which includes testing the VELO detector to verify its operation.

Abbie struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia for most of her school life and overcame health issues during her studies, which meant her doctorate was more difficult than it should have been. The Bell Burnell Postgraduate Supplemental Scholarship will help him complete his studies.

She said, “My PhD is something I have always wanted to do and believe I can do, despite the obstacles I have faced and continue to face. Receiving the fund helps me achieve this goal both practically and emotionally. Knowing that the jury believed in me enough to award me a scholarship is something I will never cease to be grateful for.

The Bell Burnell Postgraduate Scholarship Fund was established by leading physicist Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the Institute of Physics (IOP) to encourage diversity in physics by supporting talented students from groups under -represented to study physics at the doctoral level.

Dame Jocelyn, former President of the IOP, received the 2019 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her role in the discovery of pulsars, as well as for her continued scientific leadership and engagement with the scientific and broader communities.

The Breakthrough Prize included £2.3 million, which she immediately donated to the IOP to help counter what she described as “the unconscious bias that still exists in physics research” saying: “I don’t need the money myself, and it seemed like he told me that might be the best use I could make of it.

The Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund is the result. This is a doctoral scholarship fund that aims to encourage diversity in physics, helping students from groups that are underrepresented in the physics research community to undertake doctoral programs in physics.

Rachel Youngman, Deputy Director General of the Institute of Physics, said, “This year, I am thrilled that we are supporting nine deserving students to further their education and build their careers in physics. We need physicists to meet the economic challenge of building a zero-carbon economy and the more we can diversify our pool of physics researchers and innovators, the stronger and more creative it will be.

“The fund set up by Dame Jocelyn is already contributing to this. To date, it has enabled 21 students to embark on a PhD in Physics, helping them start their journey towards rewarding and exciting careers.

“Among those we have helped so far are a young woman who embarked on research into X-ray analysis tools for cancer detection, a young man whose parents were forced to flee violence and discrimination in their home country, who was able to pursue research in cosmology, and a young woman who undertook a doctoral program to develop an infrared detector capable of measuring blood sugar levels non-invasively.

“There is no doubt that this fund will ultimately benefit many people, and I am delighted to congratulate this year’s winners.

In 2019/20, only 25% of undergraduate physics students were women1. This figure rose from 22% in 2010/112but still does not reflect the proportion of women in the population.

Professor Helen Gleeson, Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Leeds and IOP representative on the Council for Inclusion and Diversity, is Chair of the Bell Burnell Postgraduate Scholarship Fund Committee. She says:

“Once again, it was extremely difficult to choose the winners; the competition was tough. It is such a pleasure to help nine very deserving students this year. Successful applicants are all involved in exciting research projects that will benefit us all and also inspire others in their role as program ambassadors. As always, I am delighted to be able to help them on their career path.

You can read more about Abbie’s story on the Institute of Physics website.