Case study

IOP scholar — Ashleigh Baker

Ashleigh studied physics at Swansea University before being awarded an Institute of Physics (IOP) scholarship and starting a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at the same university

Why did you decide to do a PGCE?

I really enjoy all aspects of physics and was looking for a role where I could use my knowledge. At university I enjoyed being involved in STEM outreach projects, so my passion for physics and education gave me a good foundation to do the PGCE. I also wanted to work in a dynamic workplace where every day is a challenge. Teaching is the perfect role for this. So I decided to do a PGCE.

What did the application process for the IOP scholarship involve?

I had to write a personal statement and answer some questions relating to GCSE and A-level physics. This was followed by an interview and a test on A-level and GCSE physics. I was informed on the day that there would be a personal interview and a group discussion. The personal interview covered why I wanted to be a teacher and work in education, as well as my ability to explain and understand physics concepts. Before the interview I was sent a brief, which gave me time to prepare for physics concepts that I was going to be explaining. I had terminal velocity and electricity, topics that I will now be teaching. Once the interviews had finished, I was informed that I would receive an email regarding the decision of awarding a scholarship.

What are the benefits of having an IOP scholarship?

  • free membership for the year of your scholarship
  • access to Physics World magazine and app
  • access to continuing professional development (CPD) sessions for trainees
  • regular contact from IOP individuals such as regional administrators giving information on events in your region, IOP coaches and ex physics teachers who now work for the IOP
  • education booklets that contain ideas for certain topics. These include experiments  as well as other ways to deliver the content. IOPSpark is really useful and is full of resources that can be used in lessons, as well as videos to help teachers improve their delivery of more difficult topics
  • great network of support, which is really valuable because the PGCE is difficult at times but worth it.

What advice would you give someone thinking of applying for an IOP scholarship?

Firstly I would suggest using the scholarship information page on the IOP website, read through what is required to see if you are eligible. Secondly, familiarise yourself with the process and read through the application form, so you know what is expected of you and you can start to brainstorm ideas that you could use in your application. The IOP scholarship team host webinars that are full of information about the scholarship and what it is like to teach physics so you should definitely sign up to one of these. You will also get to listen to scholars who have been through the process and can give honest reviews.

What more can be done to encourage women into STEM careers?

I think female role models are important. I was fortunate enough to have female physics teachers but this isn't always the case, and sometimes seeing people in these roles can help inspire and encourage women into STEM. This is one of the reasons I am going into teaching.

I also think, Women in STEM events would be a great start. I attended a conference for undergraduate women in physics while at university. To know there are other women out there that have been in the same position as me (being the only female in my A-level physics class) and are now dominating the STEM community is inspiring and reassuring.

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