Reflections on IOP Scotland’s buddy scheme


The buddy scheme in Scotland, which I’ve taken part in this year, is set to wrap up for 2016 later this month.

The scheme, run by IOP Scotland and the Scottish Government, brings together people from a range of backgrounds but with a common interest in physics and a desire to share what they do with likeminded people. The group meets in turn at each member’s workplace to get an idea of what other people in physics do, with all the meetings having to be completed by the end of the year – our final one is in two weeks’ time.

The group was very diverse both in age and range of jobs. I’m a teacher who has held senior roles in schools including head of department and head of guidance, and I was about to embark on a part-time teaching role. One of the other members worked in research, and three in NGOs. Also involved was a civil servant from the Scottish executive, and our IOP national officer Alison McLure. The one thing we had in common was our enjoyment of physics and the wish to encourage more young people into a career with physics either at its core or as a starting point.

The meetings held at our different workplaces have been informative and friendly. At each meeting the different members of the group arranged to have speakers from their workplace talking to us about their roles in the organisation. It was quite a coincidence when we met in Aberdeen at the marine labs that they were dealing with a potential emergency as an oil rig had run aground on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis.

It was a privilege to sit and listen to and question those at the forefront of gravitational wave research, gain an understanding of the issues facing the groups that maintain our water supplies, the waters and marine life around our coasts, and for me to show how physics is taught in schools, putting the rest of the group through their paces with past papers and getting them to sit in on lessons.

I’m looking forward to our final meeting, to be held later this month at the new Forth road crossing where we will learn about the construction of the bridge and maintaining and building the road networks in Scotland.

The downside is of course the geographical area that this scheme covers. One member from Aberdeen has had to do the bulk of the travelling, as the others are based in the central belt. Attending the meetings also means arranging time away from our usual work, and that in itself means selling the idea to managers.

Is it worth doing? Without a doubt yes. I’ve enjoyed learning about the other roles that physicists do, and I hope that coming into school gave the others some idea of what we face to promote physics as a subject.

I would encourage anybody no matter what their age or stage of career to consider applying – you just never know what you will learn, and you will build a super network of likeminded people.

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Gail Millar

Gail Millar

Gail Millar is a physics teacher and the secretary of the IOP Scotland committee
Gail Millar

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