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Outreach Success

ICTP postdoc Kate Shaw's physics roadshow awarded prize

ICTP postdoc Kate Shaw (center) works with Vietnamese undergraduate physics students during a Physics without Frontiers class in 2014
ICTP postdoc Kate Shaw (center) works with Vietnamese undergraduate physics students during a Physics without Frontiers class in 2014

28/04/2015 - Trieste, Italy

Kate Shaw, a postdoctoral fellow in ICTP's  High Energy, Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics section, has been awarded the European Physical Society's (EPS) 2015 Outreach Prize of the Society's High Energy and Particle Physics Division.

"I am very grateful to be awarded this prize, and feel very lucky to work in an environment that not only supports this work, but encourages it!" says Shaw, who co-founded "Physics without Frontiers" in 2012, a unique educational science roadshow sponsored by ICTP and CERN that brings physics to the far reaches of the developing world to inspire and engage young physics students.  

Shaw, a particle physicist, is part of the ICTP-University of Udine group working on CERN's ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which played an important role in the discovery of the Higgs boson. Indeed, her work at CERN features prominently in her interactions with young, developing world scientists through Physics without Frontiers, encouraging them to pursue a career in physics research. So far, more than 700 students across three continents have benefited from the programme, which targets countries that have strong physics departments but little or no experimental research, especially in high energy physics.

"These countries and universities often have high potential not being utilized,"  Shaw explains, adding, "Strong students, of course, come from every corner of the globe, and science--as well as the countries themselves--cannot afford to loose these brains."

Physics without Frontiers offers one-day, intensive master classes to physics undergraduates. Students analyse real data from the ATLAS experiment, and often do a live virtual visit with the ATLAS control room at CERN during which they can ask scientists at the other end any questions they like. In addition, Shaw enlists PhD and post docs from the host countries to serve as role models and mentors, particularly during sessions dedicated to careers and opportunities.

"By going to every university with a strong physics department, we ensure to reach every physics student. The hope is with more students going into the field and becoming experts, particle physics research can grow in their home countries," says Shaw.

Outreach extends beyond the universities to target national policy makers, who need to be convinced that an investment in fundamental research at universities is important. Shaw explains, "Many of the countries I have worked in are discussing the prospect of making agreements to work more closely with CERN; thus the Physics without Frontiers training of bright young scientists may support this aim."

In addition to her Physics without Frontiers work, Shaw promotes physics throughout the developing world as an ICTP Ambassador; her latest activity in that regard involved organizing a trip for Palestinian physics students to the Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) in Jordan.

A true science diplomat, Shaw expressed her gratitude for the support she has received from ICTP, the Udine-ICTP ATLAS research group and Italy's National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), which supports the CERN collaboration. "Many thanks go to ICTP, who do a huge amount of work supporting scientists in developing countries, and also to INFN and my Udine-ICTP ATLAS research group, for strongly supporting me and my outreach activities."

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