Specialism News

Particle Physics Masterclass at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

particle physics 01

Year 12 and 13 students have been experiencing experimental physics first hand at the Particle Physics Masterclass. Held at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford, we visited the ISIS neutron and muon source, the largest particle accelerator in the UK, to learn about cutting edge research first hand.

Students were able to visit the collider where amazing feats of engineering are happening every day to create subatomic particles and look at data transmitted from CERN to find the Higgs boson, with APS proving their scientific credentials as the first school at the workshop to identify evidence of a Higgs event. The day was rounded off by a series of engaging and stimulating lectures that are sure to inspire our physicists of the future. Here are their thoughts on the day:

The talks were very interesting and well structured around the other activities of the day which provided a great insight into the uses and what is involved in running a particle accelerator. I was also inspiring to see the the wide range of careers and people that work there.Cosmo
The visit to the accelerator was very well structured. We listened to talks about particle physics, the history of particle accelerators and how they work, all of which were interesting and informative. We also had a tour of some of the facility, where we learnt more about the work involved in operating accelerators, and got the chance to use a computer program that allowed us to view data from the LHC. Overall, the day was inspiring and insightful.Max
The activities allowed us to gain a better insight into data processing and the structure of the data collectors at CERN. We learnt a lot about the different detectors and how they are used to understand which fundamental particles are given off during a collision and how momentum is conseved. The tour also allowed us the see how much effort goes into building all the machinery needed to carry out the research.Granit
The trip was very interesting and was extremely helpful in widening my knowledge in physics. Additionally, it helped me understand further possible careers in physics. The layout of the day was also well structured. Furthermore, I found it extraordinary witnessing the amazing apparatus used in particle accelerators.Alexandros Androutsos
The trip to the accelerator was very interesting and insightful onto the physics and process behind finding new sub atomic particles that could help us understand the world better . The talks were interesting and expanded my knowledge on quantum physics and therefore giving me a heads start on others . I also went to ISIS which showed me their machinery close up and gave me a visual idea of how much is needed to control sub atomic particles and their interactions.Viktor Maszewski

Erasmus+ trip to Grojec in Poland

During the first week of November six of our Y12s, accompanied by Mr Hammond and Mr Koufou, represented the UK at an Erasmus+ project week long student meeting in Grojec Poland. The meeting was the first of a series of week-long student meetings in all partner countries (Greece, Denmark, UK & Poland) happening over the next 2 years. The project is looking at alternative energy and energy storage – we can harness wind and solar power but this is useless unless we can use the electricity generated when it is needed – hopefully the students involved in this project will provide part of the solution to this pressing international problem.

The week was an amazing experience both culturally and scientifically. The polish staff, students and families hosted us with real warmth and generosity – many of the students have made lifelong friends and look forward to welcoming their hosts to London sometime soon. As well as working collaboratively in school we visited the Polish Centre for Nuclear Research, a water treatment plant, the Warsaw uprising museum and both the physics and chemistry departments of Warsaw university. I think the student write ups and the pictures show what a fabulous time was had by all. The next project meeting is in Copenhagen in February, watch this space to finds out how it goes.

Please read some student accounts of the trip below.

As part of the Erasmus+ Project I had the opportunity to visit Poland.

During the week-long trip, I stayed with a host family and it was easily the best week of my life. Firstly, the family were incredibly welcoming and great hosts. At one point I had 6 sandwiches as packed lunch and I was having 10 meals a day! I’ve never felt so welcomed in another country before.

Furthermore, we had the opportunity to see what schools are like in Poland. Surprisingly, most aspects where similar and we found that they were learning similar content and had similarly structured classrooms and lessons. We also attended many lectures on energy sources, with one of the most fascinating parts consisted of visiting a nuclear reactor. The most notable visit however had to be to the sewage system and water treatment station. Despite it putting me off from drinking tap water forever, it was definitely a once in lifetime sight.

Finally, the best thing about this trip was the knowledge that the friendships I formed with the people in Poland are going to last forever. I met so many new people and found that we shared so much in common, and I have wonderful memories to look back upon.

I have never been on a trip in which I’ve laughed and smiled as much as I did in this trip and I am so grateful that I had the chance to participate.

APS sixth form student
On our last full day in Poland we returned to the university to learn more about chemistry as most of our trip had been focused on the physics side of renewable energy. We started with a lecture on energy storage and the problems with storing renewable energy. After this we were split into groups and assigned to different scientists to learn about the different aspects of energy storage. My group was taught about the 3 types of electrolytes used in batteries, solid, gel and liquid. We were allowed to prepare some samples, this consisted of placing a small disc of the electrolyte between two electrodes (for liquid it was a separator soaked in the sample), sealing it and connecting it to a meter which created a graph from the data to find which type conducted electricity the best. Before we found the data we were ask to guess which would conduct the best, we guessed liquid and were correct! However the reason we don’t just use liquid for all batteries is because it can leak and if it is around electronics it wouldn’t be safe, hence why they are conducting research about other types. To finish the day the different groups presented what we had learnt that day and headed back home to Grójec. Overall I really enjoyed the chemistry department because it introduced me to what it would be like to follow a career in chemistry and was a good end to a wonderful trip.APS sixth form student

What's the project?

The Erasmus Project is a European Union

funded student exchange programme (Yes that means you can go to other countries for free). Under the scheme European Union students in all forms of education can travel on organized trips to stay with a host families. It’s a fantastic opportunity making friendships, learning from professors and experts in a field you enjoy and experiencing a new culture are just some of the opportunities you can look forward to.


As part of Erasmus + I was lucky enough to be able to stay a week in Poland learning about sustainable energy generation and storage. While I was there I made lasting friends, learnt and most importantly ate a LOT of food. My favorite was Pierogi.


Pierogi, if you don’t know, is a form of dumpling that is popular all across Eastern Europe, but know one eats it like the Polish were its the national dish. They come in a variety of types, savory and sweet which all are delicious. I feel like by describing all the different types of Pierogi you can better understand the experience that we had in Poland and an experance I hope you can have too.


grzybygrzyby leśne Pierogi (Wild mushrooms stuffed)

How it’s prepared:
The Pierogi is stuffed with a species of mushrooms called Penny Bun that grow across much of Europe and Asia, the Pierogi is then fried in oil till a golden brown crust is made. You then eat them HOT.

Where I ate this:
I ate this with all of the students who went on the projects in restaurant in old town Warsaw.

twarogtwaróg szpinak Pierogi (Cheese spinach Pierogi)

How it’s prepared:
A special fermented cheese called Quark is mixed with spinach; the pierogi is then stuffed with this mixture and then boiled.

Where I ate this:
I ate this with my host and his family on the last night.

ruskieRuskie Pierogi (Russian style Pierogi) – My favorite

How it’s prepared:
The Pierogi is stuffed with mashed potato and cheese, it can then ether be boiled or lightly fired. Then comes the best bit, you melt a type of solid fat on top and sprinkle bacon bits.

Where I ate this:
I ate this also on the last night with my host family. I loved it.


malinowemalinowe pierogi (raspberry Pierogi)

How it’s prepared:
Raspberries are squashed into a past that each Pierogi is stuffed with. The Pierogi is then boiled, its served with sour cream and sugar.

Where I ate this:
I ate these at the same restraint in old town Warsaw.

borowkaBorówka amerykańska (blueberry Pierogi)

How it’s prepared:
The blueberry’s a made into a paste, which the Pierogi is stuffed with. They are then boiled and served with sour cream and sugar.

Where I ate this:
I ate this both at the restraint in old town and at my host house on two separate nights.


During our time in Poland (on the final few days) our group went to visit the prestigious Warsaw Uprising Museum to get a proper insight of the admirable struggle that Poland went through during their time in WWII under Nazi control.

chris 01The museum had proven to be one of the most inclusive and immersive experiences in terms of getting to grips with the details of the war as soon as we had put our audio guides in. The tour guide would lead us around the massive building stopping at times to explain to us the details of celebrated war heroes and allow us to hold and ‘shoot’ replicas of a machine gun.

The museum had also contained built in replicas of some of the tunnels that Polish insurgents would have to traverse their own city under in order to avoid detection by the Nazis. They were almost painfully small however it did proudly boast the museum’s creative architectural design and the intensive attention to detail.

chris 02As we walked further into the museum one of our group members had looked up and noticed a Liberator B-24J bomber replica suspended from the ceiling with realistic markings that would’ve been common on most Liberator aircrafts, like tallies for how many successful missions that the aircraft has had. We were also told that it was the specific type of aircraft that was used during the war in order to fight some of the control that Nazi Germany had in Warsaw, providing some military aid to Poland during their uprising.

After gallivanting around the museum, taking pictures and generally viewing replicas and official letters/uniforms from the museum we had the opportunity to go into a screening room which showed the utter devastation on the city of Warsaw during WWII and how the city got levelled with real/CGI imaging from the time, which we also viewed in 3D! Overall, our experience in the museum was quite memorable and gave us a further insight into the account of what had happened during WWII.


Girls in Physics

On Wednesday 4th October, a number of our girls attended the Girls in Physics Evening at Highgate School.  The fantastic speakers were Dr. Nadia Abdul-Karin who works in defence and security, Dr. Ozak Esu who is an enginer with Cundall, and Goody Gibbins who is a researcher and works to see how thermodynamics can be used to help combat climate change.  Although due to gender discrimination I was not permitted to attend, I was delighted at how enthusiastic the girls were the next day.  Our Y11 girls were particularly inspired by Dr. Nadia Abdul-Karin leading to them saying 'I didn't know doing physics could lead to such interesting jobs'.  I hope this enthusiasm helps these young ladies and others continue their enjoyment of the subject through A-Level and beyond!

I really enjoyed the event.  It gave me great insight into the world of physics and the part women play into it.  I loved hearing about the importance of women, in a field that is thought of as a men's field, and that is predominantly male.  I also found it interesting to find out about careers I had never heard of before.  I was very interested listening to different degrees and places they can take you.Lola Mcauley
I found the talks very informative and engaging.  The speakers also mentioned ways to get into STEM careers and provided links to scholarships and programmes which was very helpful.  I feel like I have a better understanding of the speakers' professions and of women's roles within STEM generally.  Overall, I thought it was a useful experience and one that I took a lot from.Ella Gregory
I thoroughly enjoyed the “Girls in Physics’ event at Highgate school and it introduced me to some interesting pathways into Physics careers. It helped me to start thinking about a future in science and opened my mind to sectors of Physics which I did not know about, such as physicists working closely with the law to identify and detect explosives and the way they work and physics within the study of climate change and the environment. The women who spoke were very inspiring and passionate about what their specific field and made me think about all the different avenues and options to choose from in Physics and science as a whole to fit you and your personal passions and interests. All of the events I have attended with Highgate have been of an amazing standard and I have learnt lots from as well as enjoyed and I would be excited to participate in future activities.Liliana Newsam-Smith

Read more about Dr. Nadia Abdul Karim


Queen Mary's Physicists of the Year

Two APS Physics students have been awarded the Queen Mary's University Physicist of the Year award.  Queen Mary University run this award to allow different schools across London to reward a GCSE student for their contribution and aptitude for physics.  Kelly Fitzgerald, year 12 and Liliana Newsam-Smith, year 10, attended an awards evening at Queen Mary University last week, which consisted of a lecture and several demonstrations.  Here are the reasons why Kelly and Liliana were nominated.

Kelly was nominated for her consistently impressive physics exam results and her enthusiasm for the primary school science club, where she planned and lead science club sessions at a local primary school.  Liliana was nominated for her impressive physics exam results and for her enthusiasm for the Highgate masterclasses.

Congratulations to both students.