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School of Physics and Astronomy

Secondary schools and colleges

Secondary school children laughing in lecture theatre
Our academic staff are available to talk to secondary school students on a range of topics.

From showing demonstrations to Year 7 students to providing A-level work experience placements, we want to engage students of all ages with the exciting study of physics.

We have a huge well of talent in our School, and we welcome opportunities to share it with local schools.

Some of our specific activities are listed below. We're also flexible with regard to other workshops, talks and campus visits - just get in touch.

Work experience

We offer work experience for Year 12 students aged 16 or over through either the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics work experience week, or a Nuffield research placement.

We receive a lot of demand for these opportunities; application information is detailed below.

Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics work experience week

The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) is the astronomical research centre of The University of Manchester and is one of the largest astrophysics groups in the country. The research interests of the JBCA span almost every area of astrophysics, from the Sun to the Big Bang and we are one of the world's most important centres for the technical development of radio telescopes and instrumentation. The JBCA is also responsible for the operation of the eMERLIN and VLBI national facilities and the Lovell Telescope; the operations centre for these facilities is at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. The Observatory will also be the site of the new international project office for the Square Kilometre Array telescope.

We are occasionally able to take on Year 12/A-level students for a week-long work experience programme, where up to 12 placement students spend the week working as a team across a range of short astrophysics projects and experiments at our main research centre in the Alan Turing Building in The University of Manchester campus. The group ends the week by giving a seminar on their work to JBCA staff and PhD students. Past research topics have included the moons of Jupiter, dark matter simulations, estimating the age of a globular cluster and spectroscopy of planetary nebulae. It's not expected that you would have any knowledge of the research topic, but they all involve working with real data as an astrophysicists would - so using maths and computing to study some aspect of the Universe.

The work experience week is held twice a year, in late January/early February and in early July. Dates are announced on this page approximately three to four months in advance.

Eligibility for the work experience programme:

  • You must be aged 16-18, or you will be 16 by the beginning of the week you're applying for
  • You should be in Year 12 (first year of A-level) or equivalent
  • You must be studying both physics and maths
  • You have to be available for the whole week. Each day will run roughly 10am - 4pm
  • If accepted, you'll need permission from your school and a parent or guardian
  • This is not a residential placement, and most attendees either live locally or can stay with local relatives. You can apply regardless of where you live, but you'll have to arrange and pay for your own transport and/or accommodation - we can't reimburse these costs, and please note that there will only be staff supervision 10am - 4pm while you're on campus

Note that this placement is based on the University's main Oxford Road campus, not at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. We regret that we're unable to consider applications from students in earlier years, or from students who will complete their A-level courses this year. We also can't offer placements or work shadowing on alternative dates.

Sign up for email updates on the 2019 dates (likely to be early February and early July) by filling in this form.

If you have any questions that aren't covered above, you can contact emma.nichols@manchester.ac.uk.

Nuffield research placements

The Nuffield Foundation offers over 1,000 four to six-week summer placements in STEM subjects each year, giving students over 16 the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists.

Isaac Physics student and teacher workshops

To strengthen the bond between A-level physics and maths, we work with online platform Isaac Physics to offer online problems, student workshops and professional development to teachers.

Student workshops

We offer a number of free student workshops that seek to develop the confidence of students and give them a taste of university-style problems.

Teacher support

The School of Physics and Astronomy offers sessions to teachers that show how Isaac Physics can be used to set assignments for students.

Additionally, we offer free full-day Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshops for A-level maths and physics teachers to develop their problem-solving skills and further explain the Isaac Physics partnership.

To arrange a student workshop or teacher support, please contact lloyd.cawthorne@manchester.ac.uk.

You can also visit the Isaac Physics website to find out when you can take advantage of a CPD workshop.

One Day Schools

Our One Day Schools in Physics events are held on campus and involve a series of talks, repeated over three consecutive days, which illustrate various aspects of physics and astronomy research. The talks are given by world experts in theoretical physics, particle physics, nuclear physics, astronomy and other branches of physics, which vary from year to year.

Students will hear about the latest curiosity-driven, fundamental research on the origin and nature of the Universe around them. In addition, they'll be able to see why physics is an important and relevant subject, and how it affects people's everyday lives in technological application.

Held every spring, the event is intended for sixth formers studying AS or A2 in physics and complements the A-level curriculum.

We have over 600 schools and colleges on our mailing list - to be added to this, or for more information, please contact val.brennan@manchester.ac.uk.

Masterclass sessions

We run various 'masterclass' sessions for sixth form students (Year 12) and their teachers. These focus on a particular area of physics and consist of talks by researchers and hands-on practical sessions.

The Particle Physics Masterclass has run since 1997 and has engaged thousands of students over the years.

The Nano Masterclass has run since 2016 and is based around the latest research in nanomaterials, such as graphene.

Sixth form lectures

The School of Physics runs a series of sixth form lectures that are used to enrich the A-level curriculum and further engage students in physics. They can be arranged via the University website.