I’m here to tell you about my experience as a professional services intern as a part of Cardiff University Summer placement program. I aim to also direct your attention to a different but equally thrilling prospect: social media and outreach! My name is Vijayatha Vijayaraghavan, and for a month I have worked as an intern for the Physics Mentoring Project. The goal of the Physics mentoring project is to increase the uptake of Physics A-level in Wales by engaging with schools. Undergraduate and postgraduate students from Welsh universities are assigned to schools across Wales to mentor aspiring physicists.

During the period that I interned, I was able to take part in the organisation and hosting of awards ceremonies to honour mentees and mentors who had taken part in the project. One of the most exciting parts of my internship was visiting other universities to hold the awards ceremonies and presenting certificates to students. I got to talk with teachers and mentors about their experiences with physics, and even deliver a physics related workshop in one of the events. It was an amazing opportunity to get hands-on experience with outreach and science communication in the field.

Social Media

As part of my internship, I was tasked with creating tweets for various physics awareness days throughout the year. It was a chance for me to help spread awareness about physics to the general public.  At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this. How do you condense complex ideas and theories into 280 characters or less? But after some brainstorming and plenty of trial and error, I was able to do so. Here are some examples of tweets I created for different physics awareness days:

Great news, #astronomy enthusiasts! The Perseid Meteor Shower is set to light up the night sky from 17 July to 24 August. Mark your calendars for the mid-August peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower and do not miss out on the breathtaking celestial event of the year.

Perseid Meteor Shower, July 17

We observe the 54th anniversary of Apollo 11 lunar landing mission today. Let’s take a moment to honour the resolve of the astronauts who created history by being the first humans to set foot on the moon, opening the door for upcoming expeditions. #HappyNationalMoonDay

National Moon Day, July 20
Awards and Recognition Ceremonies

The first awards ceremony was held at Swansea University, the second at Cardiff University, and the third at the University of South Wales. We had tons of goody bags to fill with items like badges, notebooks, and pens. It was a challenge to get everything in there just right! Next up on the list of tasks was writing certificates for all the mentees who would be participating in different activities throughout the day. We had to make sure each certificate looked professional and polished. After that, the last task was transporting the refreshments and prizes to the venue. 

The awards ceremony at Swansea went smoothly, and the students got their certificates from David Rees MS. The event also consisted of a talk on black holes from one of the university professors, a tour of the Physics Department, and a teaching lab demo using liquid nitrogen. My favourite part of the event was the stardust hunting workshop held by Dr Sarah Roberts as part of the ‘Stardust Hunters’ outreach program funded by the STFC. The workshop consisted of gathering samples of particles from the ground at Swansea University using magnets and observing them under a microscope to find micrometeorites. I had the chance to spot one and it was truly mind-blowing. It was a small, nearly spherical shiny object that had come from space and landed on Earth. It was truly remarkable to see something like this with my own eyes.

The second awards ceremony was held at Cardiff University, and I was given the task of being the official photographer for the event in addition to helping with organising it. It was fun because I could capture what the event looked like from my eyes. Students from Pencoed, Risca and Whitmore schools received their certificates from Dr Chris North. In the afternoon, I had the chance to host a Generation Tech activity titled ‘Fuzzy Faces’ for the mentees. It was a rare opportunity, because I had only done the activity for Years 3-5 and not for GCSE students. There was a mentee focus group and another activity hosted by Dr Chris North alongside my own workshop. What I learned from this event was to communicate science in a more efficient way for GCSE level students and obtain amazing feedback from them.

The third and last awards ceremony took place at the University of South Wales. There were mentees from Tredegar along with their teacher, Sophie Dobbs. The mentees received their respective certificates and goody bags from their teacher. The first activity was conducted by Huw Rees, a Project Management Officer for Bute Energy. Bute Energy is a Welsh renewable energy company. The session first introduced the mission and motto of Bute Energy, then explained conductors, insulators and semiconductors. The mentees then came up with solutions to connect wind farms in mid-Wales to the nearest National Grid network. It was impressive to see young minds working together to come up with a feasible and creative way to resolve a hypothetical problem. The second activity was a talk by the Rocketry Society on space and current space trends. The students were taken on a tour around the Aerospace Department and were able to see many types of equipment. One of the unforgettable experiences the mentees and I gained was experiencing the flight simulator and taking a look around the aerospace hangar. As the day drew to a close, I had the pleasure of engaging with the remarkable Sophie Dobbs, discovering her unyielding passion for sustainability. Sophie stands as one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic teachers I have ever encountered, and I walked away armed with invaluable lessons and profound insights.

As an intern, I found my interactions with various experienced mentors to be extremely beneficial and enlightening. Through engaging discussions with them, I was able to understand how these mentors brought complex concepts to life, fostering an atmosphere of curiosity and enthusiasm among students. This experience not only deepened my appreciation for the educators’ dedication to their craft but also reinforced my commitment to fostering a love for physics in future generations. I gained invaluable insights into effective methods to impart knowledge to students.

To sum up, my internship voyage has been an enriching and enlightening adventure. Along the way, I’ve honed real-world skill sets, cultivated enduring professional connections, and gained profound insights into the ever-evolving industry. Embracing the invigorating challenges and seizing the abundant opportunities this internship offered has undoubtedly set the stage for a thriving career ahead in my chosen domain. As I reflect on this transformative experience, I am incredibly grateful to Georgie and Celina, who guided me throughout the internship.

Vijayatha holding her top tip for those looking to complete internships