Hannah Barnard, Conor Price and Jonas Riisnaes in outreach visit to Ide Primary School

On the 13th February, second year PGRs Hannah Barnard, Conor Price and Jonas Riisnaes visited Ide Primary School, a local school in Exeter, to talk about what scientists and engineers do.

Conor Price

Conor said:

“The children have recently been learning about British engineer Isambard Brunel, and were interested to learn about what other scientists and engineers do. We spoke to the children about our research, what we do in our day to day, and what it’s like to be a scientist. To bring the conversation back to Brunel, we spoke about the important things that need to be considered when building a bridge. We then gave them marshmallows and spaghetti to design and build their own bridges to help Derek the Dinosaur get across the river.”


Hannah Barnard

Hannah said:

“I think the children really enjoyed the interactive parts of the session and were very engaged with the process of designing and building – from thinking about what load a bridge might have to endure, to what materials might be strong enough to build from. Overall the activity was a huge success and very rewarding for us to run. We got to inspire the students and show them just how exciting Science and Engineering can be.”



Jonas Riisnaes

Jonas said:

“It’s amazing how the children chose to solve a problem given some basic materials and ideas – they were all very creative and innovative and used the materials in ways we had never predicted. The variety of solutions the children came up with goes to show the importance of a wider recruitment into the STEM subjects. We all had a lot of fun and learned quite a bit about bridges, engineering and teaching.”

Pint of Science Festival 2019

Last month Pint of Science returned to Exeter. Pint of Science is a worldwide science festival that takes place every year and brings researchers to your local pub to present their scientific discoveries. This year it was in over 24 countries in nearly 400 cities. In the UK there were over 600 events in 41 cities.

This year in Exeter, there were four main themes: Our bodies (Exonian), Our beautiful minds (RAMM), Planet Earth (Henry’s Bar) and Atoms to Galaxies (City Gate). Over 550 tickets were sold across the festival.

The Atoms to Galaxies Team was the Physics/Engineering topics. It was held at the City Gate. We had 3 events: “Little Things Make A Big Difference”, “Tech That, Tomorrow” and “Stars, Planets and Disks”. Each night there were three talks given by active researchers, interactive sessions and a quiz with questions based on the theme of the night. Over the three nights we sold over 110 tickets (116) with the “Little Things Make A Big Difference” and “Tech That, Tomorrow” events being sold out.

The below groups included CDT students (indicated in brackets) and University staff:

Exeter’s Pint of Science – Atoms to Galaxies Organisers:

Elizabeth Martin (lead, CDT)

David Osuna Ruiz (CDT)

Shane Davies (CDT)

Iago Rodriguez Diez (CDT)

Mark Philips


Exeter’s Pint of Science – Atoms to Galaxies – Little Things Make A Big Difference Speakers:

Adolf De Sanctis (also led an interactive session)

Pablo Martinez Pancorbo (CDT)

Steve Hepplestone


Exeter’s Pint of Science – Atoms to Galaxies – Tech That, Tomorrow:

Liam Trimby (CDT- also led an interactive session)

Paul Keatley

Jess Brown (CDT)


Emily Glover was also involved with publicity of Exeter’s Pint of Science in general.


The events were covered by university student media and two of Exeter’s Pint of Science leaders, Aaron Labdon and Anastasiia Kovalenko, spoke about the various themes on BBC Radio Devon.

As you can see from the photos below, the audience were engaged with plenty of talks and activities:

Jess Brown @ Soap Box Science 2018

Jess Brown only started her PhD in 2017, but has been an incredibly engaged researcher with strong committment to sharing her passion and experiences beyond her immediate research project right from the start. She joined the XM² Student Advisory Group to represent her cohort together with her peer Emily Glover, and represented Exeter on the BBC University Challenge programme.

Her latest endeavour? Taking to the stage for “Soap Box Science” events in Exeter and Plymouth to inspire the wider public with science!

Here’s Jess’ Soap Box Science story on piezoelectric effects and jelly waves:

Earlier this year, on the recommendation of another female CDT PGR, I applied to be a Soapbox Science speaker in Exeter. On their website, Soapbox Science is described as a grass-roots science outreach organisation that brings cutting-edge research onto urban streets whilst also promoting the visibility of women in science. Inspirational speakers are placed on soapboxes and encouraged to engage in and start conversations with the public about their work. Since 2011, the organisation has expanded dramatically from one event in London with 12 speakers to this year, with 30 events in 8 countries and hundreds of speakers worldwide.

One of the core aims of the XM² CDT is outreach, and I felt this was a perfect way to get involved. Speakers are given an hour on the soapbox, and it is up to them how they use that – planning my talk was challenging but enjoyable, taking a step back to be creative and think about how I would describe my work to the general public and children in particular, people without scientific backgrounds.

Armed with a slinky and a Tupperware full of raspberry jelly, I stood on my soapbox and talked about my research – I gave demonstrations of different kinds of waves, described the piezoelectric effect, and spoke about applications of acoustic microfluidic systems. I particularly enjoyed getting volunteers to help with wave demos – seeing a standing wave on a slinky in the middle of Exeter really grabbed people’s attention! When I wasn’t speaking, I walked around to learn from inspirational women about their research on a wide variety of topics such as clinical psychology, cardiac health, whales, bacteria, DNA and graphene. After a great day in Exeter, I did it all again the following day in Plymouth (the jelly only just survived the train journey)!

Soapbox Science was a really rewarding experience, as it’s a fantastic way to introduce the public to interesting science, while simultaneously promoting female scientists. I would highly recommend getting involved as a volunteer, and other female researchers (at any stage in their career) to sign up to be speakers for future events around the country and further afield!

Lighting up RAMM – XM2 PGRs in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum

On Saturday 21st July 2018 the CDT in Metamaterials PGRs set out to inspire the public in Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM). They joined forces with research colleagues from the University’s physics and engineering departments and an Irish artist to showcase interactive experiments, demonstrations and craft activities.

Thanks to all of them for sharing their time and passion, to RAMM for hosting the researchers, and very special thanks to XM² PGR Lauren Barr who coordinated the event.

Throughout the day around 150 visitors stopped by to try the experiments and learn a little about the physics behind the wonderful artefacts in the museum. One mother commented,

It’s been eye-opening & fun! We will continue to explore colour & light throughout the school holidays. Thanks for inspiring us

and many have requested more and different activities for next year. The PGRs are members of the Exeter Optics and Photonics Society

The stands offered a wide range of opportunities for visitors young and old:

  • Testing an oscilloscope and microphone, along with a few other noisy experiments. This piece of equipment allows us to see the sound waves we make when we talk, sing or bang on the drums. (Simon Baber, Erick Burgos)
  • Experiments to test the conductivity and magnetism of different materials, including lab samples made of graphene – just a single layer of carbon atoms, and extremely interesting as it is conductive, flexible and transparent. (William Ferguson & Jake Mehew)
  • Various iridescent butterflies, beetles and birds and put them next to a microscope used to see the fine structure of the wings and scales. The bright colours of these animals are really created by the structures, and without these they would be a dull brown. Because of this, they also have some unusual features when we look at them from different angles and through different filters. (Henry Fernandez, Erick Burgos)

 “I’ve been hundreds of times in this museum and I never knew why some animals show different colours depending on which position you’re looking at them.

  • Cleverly camouflaged animals (a good example of how wildlife uses colour to hide) and some cleverly hidden jelly spheres (a good example of how scientists work hard to hide things too!) (Ioannis Leontis)
  • A more science-based approach to colour mixing with red, green and blue LEDs which enabled the visitors to add the light from these LEDs to make all the colours of the rainbow, the same way our TVs and phone screens do. (Kishan Menghrajani)
  • Showing off some fluorescent materials and bugs that glow when UV light shines on them. Useful if you have to find a scorpion on the dark! (Kieran Walsh)
  • Arrays of optical illusions to show how our eyes can play tricks when we look at different colours and how famous artists from the past made use of these tricks when they painted some of their most famous work, like Georges Seurat and Claude Monet. (Tommy Barr)
  • Micrscopy of the fine structure of butterfly wings, minerals and paints (Prince Khatri)
  • How to make spectrometers out of cardboard and a CD. These little boxes separate light into different colours, making every sky full of rainbows, and giving  a glimpse at what’s inside different lightbulbs. (Dr Adolfo de Sanctis, Erick Burgos)

The event received financial support from the EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials, OSA and SPIE.

Our International Day of Light contribution at the University of Exeter – congratulations to the photo and poster prize winners and the fantastic organizer!

On 16 May 2018 the world saw the celebration of the first ever International Day of Light. The event was celebrated around the world with more than 500 events taking place in 87 countries to create awareness of the role of light plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development, and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy.

Why May 16th?

The International Day of Light is a global initiative that provides an annual focal point for the continued appreciation of light in all forms and shapes and applications. It will be held on May 16th every year, the anniversary of the first successful operation of the laser in 1960 by physicist and engineer, Theodore Maiman.

UoE’s contribution

The Optics and Photonics Society of the University of Exeter (EUOPS) did not wanted to miss this opportunity to join the worldwide celebration and organised events open to the entire community of Exeter. They held a photo competition with three main categories, which encouraged participants to showcase how important light is nature, in their day-to-day life and in technology. Bill Barnes, Professor of Photonics at the University of Exeter, had the difficult task to choose the winners among the 57 photo submissions:

  • Pak Hin Fung won the “Light in Nature” category with a beautiful photo of one of the most touristic places of Exeter: The Quay. In Bill’s words: “It seems at first that this is a picture of buildings etc., but if one looks for a little while it becomes clear that the sky, and its reflection, wins“.
  • The “Light in Technology” first place went to Adolfo De Sanctis with his photo about waveguides and fluorescence: “Guiding of light is so important to our digital age. It is nice to see this simple demonstration of how light is guided to the edge of the slide to remind us that it is really a simple phenomenon”.
  • Finally, the first place of the “Light in Day-to-Day Life” category and the overall winner of the competition was the photo by Flo Pearson titled “Peg Shadows”: “This picture is really made by the shadows of the pegs – an absence of light!“

Alongside the photo competition, there was a poster competition where the participants were asked to explain to the general public how they use light in their research. There was one simple rule: explain your research in the easiest way possible. The 5 poster submissions were judged by year 12 students (Adam Barber, Peter Betts, Harry Price) and their teacher Dr Aude Alapini-Odunlade from Clyst Vale Community College.

  • The winner of the poster competition was our very own XM² 4th year PGR Christopher King with his poster explaining the designing of non-scattering material, which can be the base for invisible materials.

Between these two competitions,  £300 in prizes were shared between firsts, seconds, and audience favourite prizes,. The award ceremony was held in the Forum of the University of Exeteron 11th of May.

A very special thanks goes to EUOPS and the XM² 4th year PGR Erick Burgos Parra who organised an outstanding first celebration of the International Day of Light!

Photo competition winners in order of appearance in the text above:









Prize giving ceremony – in presence and absence of the pohoto and poster competition winners in order of appearance in the text above.





The organiser’s introduction to the event – Special thanks to Erick Burgos Parra!





















16 May 2018 – Celebrate the International Day of Light with us!

The International Day of Light takes place on 16 May 2018. Our CDT in Metamaterials postgraduate researchers  in Physics and Engineering (Erick Burgos, Henry Fernandez, Joaquín Faneca) have joined forces with Astrophysics (Dr Jennifer Hatchell), Biophysics (Dr Francesca Palombo, Dr Noemi Correa) and Archaeology (Adrian Oyaneder) to celebrate this day with three events:

  • An outreach session on the Exeter city centre (Princesshay, 11.30 – 17.00) with hands-on experiments, demonstrations, and display of the finalists’ submisions of the currently open photo and poster competition (volunteers are welcome!).
  • A photo and poster competition with an award ceremony at the forum.
  • Pint of science” talks related to light in research – The event will take place between the 14th and 16th of May, featuring for example  the talk “Virtual light, real effects” from Henry Fernandez on 16 May 2018.

Photo competition

  • Submissions invited from everyone until the 4th of May of 2018.
  • Three submission categories: light in daily life; light in technology; light in nature.
  • Win up to £100!

Please see all entry regulations here: https://euops.wordpress.com/day-of-light/

Poster competition

  • Open to all Exeter students that use light as a tool of their investigation, or who study light by itself.
  • Submission of A0 size posters is open from 30th of April to the 5th of May of 2018.
  • Submissions will be done by twitter, using the hashtag #IDLposterexeter.
  • Win up to £50!

Please see all entry regulations here: https://euops.wordpress.com/day-of-light/

The exhibition of the finalist photos and posters will take place on 11th of May 2018 in the University of Exeter Forum, Streatham Campus, from 10:00 am to 16:00 pm. There will be an  “audience’s favourite” prize for the photo with the most likes on the EUOPS facebook page. The three finalist posters that received the most votes online will be judged on the day by an academic jury to select and anounce the poster prize winner on the day.

Take part, engage, share your passion!

Please contact Erick Burgos if you have any further questions.

Metabuddies: PGR outreach activity with Queen Elizabeth’s School Crediton

In spring 2018 Francis Davies, Elizabeth Martin, and Ned Taylor visited Queen Elizabeth’s School, Crediton as part of the CDT’s Metabuddies program to run physics sessions related to metamaterials with a group of year 12 physics students. They led a few different sessions over the course of March, in which they talked about their research and what studying a PhD is all about, and held a physics related Q & A with the students. A particular highlight were the indvidual physics challenges related to the PGR’s research the students could choose from, a data-storage and optics challenge (Frank), a programming challenge to find system energies (Ned), and a mechanics and magnetism related challenge (Elizabeth).

  • The programming challenge involved using various maths and physics skills and a computer to solve for the energy of different systems and investigating the use of programming in solving physics problems.
  • The data-storage challenge involved using a laser pointer and a CD to find out the number of bits stored using diffraction.
  • The mechanics and magnetism challenge involved using various pieces of equipment that were provided to design an experiment to investigate the magnetic force between to magnets and its relationship with distance.

The idea of these challenges was to give the students a taste of what it is like to be a researcher. The metabuddies aided them with the challenge along the way, but it was all about them figuring out how to conduct an investigation and solve various challenges, using the knowledge they had acquired from their taught course as well as their own ideas and general knowledge.

An example of a ‘magic trick’: The Metabuddies brought along two almost identical tubes, one made or copper and one made of paper. Drop a magnet into the tubes and you’ll notice it falls much slower down the copper tube than the paper one. The question for the students was: how is this possible? At first, there were apparanetly exclamations that it was a magic trick! But when the metabuddies handed the tubes over to the students to try themselves, that’s when they really started to think. As a group they explained Lenz’s Law without even realising it! It really emphasized how important the hands-on part of physics is in everyone’s learning.

Elizabeth Martin, CDT in Metamaterials PGR & Metabuddy:  “It was amazing to see the group transform so by the end they were a well organised team working together and bouncing ideas off each other.  In addition to this, the students had more questions about our research and how we came to be doing a PhD in this relaxed setting of doing an experiment in small groups, rather than in a presentation setting.”

Mr Nick Baker, Head of Physics, Queen Elizabeth’s School on the Metabuddies program:  “We have had a very positive time working with the metabuddies. They have been well organised and professional throughout. The students found their sessions engaging, challenging and inspiring.”



Images top to bottom: Our Metabuddies engaging with Queen Elizabeth’s School (Crediton) students through hands-on physics challenges (Elizabeth Martin, top), background knowledge taught coures (Francis Davies, middle), and 1:1 support (Ned Taylor, bottom).



The beauty of Science & Art – Roy Sambles’ Christmas lecture

Prior Christmas, the Cornubian Arts & Science Trust (CAST) presented a lecture by Roy Sambles, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Exeter and artist David Batchelor at Helston College.

Roy demonstrated some of the ways in which light and colour may be created. He was joined by David Batchelor, an internationally acclaimed artist whose work experiments with colour as it is experienced in the modern urban environment.

CAST aims to promote participation, appreciation and learning in the visual arts and to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration across the arts and sciences.

The lecture has been organised in partnership with the Institute of Physics.

SoapBox Science – call for female speakers is now open

Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do. The next call for speakers is now open, you can sign up for one of their “classic” Soapbox Science events here.

Application deadline: 23rd February 2018. 

Lauren Barr took to the streets last summer (the Event runs in Exeter every June) and is happy to offer information and advice! Read her story about the experience.


In addition to their usual events, Soapbox Science’s 8th year is set to bring innovative, awe-inspiring, and mind-boggling science to arts festivals around the UK. Soapbox Art & Science embarks on its second year of uniting female scientists with artists from local research/education institutions to explore fresh and engaging ways of communicating scientific ideas through art, and testing them out on audiences at arts festivals.

Are you a female scientist who is passionate about your work, and eager to explore your topic in

Interested in volunteering? Contact me: Lauren Barr,

creative ways? If so, then Soapbox Art & Science needs YOU! They are looking for active scientists in all areas of science, from PhD students to Professors, and from entry-level researchers to entrepreneurs, to take part in this cutting-edge project to

  • Help  improve the visibility of women in science
  • Develop engaging and innovative ways to communicate science
  • Make valuable connections with artists and other scientists
  • Engage with people who might not otherwise encounter science

Find out more and apply for the Soapboax  Art & Science events here. 

Application deadline: 3rd January 2018.