Meet our first IOP Scholars

Last year the IOP launched its Teacher Training Scholarships, exclusive awards for just 100 outstanding individuals wishing to embark on a physics initial teacher training course. Here are two of the first people to be awarded a scholarship – could you follow in their footsteps and join them?

Rob (pictured left) is 38 and from Bath.  With a  degree and masters in Economics and Econometrics he is currently doing a subject knowledge enhancement course.

“I have to admit it sounds like a bit of a mid-life crisis – to change career so radically at 38!  Certainly my friends in the tax profession were astonished when I told them I was leaving to teach secondary physics!  To me though it makes a lot of sense as I feel I’m going back to my roots.

I loved physics at school.  In a large part I expect this was due to all the experimentation we were allowed to do.  I remember my teacher talking about how light moves in straight lines and bounces off things like a snooker ball, before having us re-create the double slit experiment. My amazement on ‘discovering’ that light makes diffraction patterns still makes me smile in wonder.

However, in my final years at school I was side-tracked by economics. I found the idea of applying scientific methods to government policy with the aim of reducing poverty and increasing wealth very enticing.  I followed that idea through a degree and a masters before being lured into the world of international taxation by the enticing salary on offer.

I’ve thought about returning to physics a few times since then, but the barriers (in terms of the immediate impact on my earnings) seemed too great.  It wasn’t until the idea of teaching hit me that I saw my future open up.  Spending time helping my children with their school work, and getting involved with their school, got me thinking about teaching.  I then spent some time shadowing science teachers to see what life was like at the coal face, which massively increased my respect for what teachers do, and confirmed to me that I was making the right choice.

The icing on the case was finding out about all the financial support available.  I mean it is not often that you can get paid for studying (as happens on a physics knowledge enhancement course), while the funding for physics PGCEs is exceptional. Of course, it also helps if you have a supportive partner!

It may be a drastic change, but I am hugely excited about helping children experience the wonders of science and to open their eyes to the exciting career options physics provides.”

Lee (pictured right)  is 25, and originally from Northern Ireland. He graduated with a 1st Class Honours Degree from Balliol College and stayed in Oxford for doctoral studies in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry. In addition, Lee tutors at Balliol and Worcester College, teaching topics in the “Physics for Chemistry” course, as well as problems classes on general physical chemistry.

“I was delighted to be awarded an IOP Teacher Training Scholarship; being considered to have sufficient potential in teaching to be worthy of the scholarship was a good feeling, especially as I was concerned that (being a physical chemist by training) I wouldn’t be classified as being ‘physics-y’ enough to cut it as a physics teacher!

The money will make my PGCE year a lot smoother, as I won’t be distracted by finances and can focus on training to the best of my ability. But the benefits that come with the scholarship are much more important.

The resources and expertise available within the IOP are tremendous, and the strong links that the scholarships aim to provide will definitely be of benefit throughout my whole teaching career.  Finally, and perhaps somewhat vainly, an IOP Teacher Training Scholarship will look great on my CV!”