Interview of the Month: Women and Physics Group (WIPG) of the Institute of Physics (10/2015)

Every month, for you, EPWS presents the characteristics and activities of one Member association.

Read all the previous Interviews with our Members here


Our member for October 2015 is the British association,

The Women in Physics Group of the Institute of Physics.


WP Group(RGB)


For the Women in Physics Group, Dr Heather Williams, Senior Medical Physicist at Central Manchester University Hospitals, has accepted to answer the EPWS questionnaire.
Contact this association: via the Institute of Physics,
Contact this member:
Association website:


EPWS: If you wanted to describe your association in one sentence, what would you say?

HW: The Institute of Physics (IoP) has a number of groups which focus on different aspects of physics and its applications. Some groups represent particular areas of research (such as Solid State Physics), others represent groups employed in particular sectors (such as Medical Physics), others areas of particular interest in how physics engages with society (such as Physics Communication). The Women in Physics group represents the interests of women working within physics, promotes their contribution to the field, and provides input into the wider Diversity agenda at the IoP. We also collaborate internationally through ICWIP and are looking forward to hosting the ICWIP conference in the UK in 2017.


EPWS: What are the objectives of your association?

We aim to reflect the varied careers of women physicists in industry, commerce, academia, teaching and research, and support and encourage women in their chosen careers. In doing so, we hold those women up as role models to the next generation of female physicists and work to remove barriers that undermine their access to careers in physics.


EPWS: what is the history of The Women in Physics Group, in a few words?

The group started as a subcommittee of the Education Department within the IoP in 1985 which matured to a professional group of the IoP in 1995. A more detailed history, with an archive of our newsletters to group members, can be found here:


EPWS: Could you explain the organization of your association?

We have a central committee of female physicists from a wide range of backgrounds – academia, industry, teaching, healthcare, and science communication. We are supported by a mixed and auspicious advisory panel:

The Advisory Panel supports us by adding their advice and experience when we are asked for input into the IoP’s responses to national and international initiatives such as the recent enquiries by the UK government into issues affecting women in science. Members of the Advisory Panel also act as judges for our annual Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year Award (VECA)


EPWS: What are its recent achievements?

We recently ran a joint meeting with the History of Physics Group at the IoP, entitled “The lives and times of pioneering women in physics » which featured a stellar line-up of speakers including Prof Hélène Langevin-Joliot, grand-daughter of Marie Curie.
We are also particularly proud of our group prize, the Very Early Career Woman Physicist of the Year Award (VECA). This celebrates the achievements of women within 5 years of graduating who have made a substantial contribution to the subject and have undertaken activities to support and encourage others in the field. Every year this award identifies many young women who are exemplary role models and show that you don’t have to wait for a professorship to do something significant and meaningful with a physics degree. The award, which comes with a £1000 prize, was sponsored first by HSBC, then for several years by Shell, and from 2016 will be sponsored by AWE.
Our Facebook page acts as a networking opportunity for women in physics all over the world, and is quite busy.

EPWS members are invited to join us at


EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?

We have the VECA award ceremony and our Annual General Meeting coming up in November, and are supporting a conference for undergraduate female physicists in March of next year. And then there is all the preparation for the IUPAP ICWIP 2017 Conference! We’re also looking to support a number of events for female physics students to inform them of careers where they can put their physics to work, the first of these ran in Manchester a couple of years ago and was a great success.


EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?

Membership of EPWS provides WIPG with a strong link with women scientists across Europe. The EPWS newsletter is disseminated to all WIPG members to inform them about gender related issues and activities in other European countries as well as to remind them to read to EPWS website.
EPWS membership has also enabled WIPG to report progress within the UK and recent European progress for women scientists to be fed back. Additionally, inspiring methods of encouraging the next generation into science are shared between EPWS members.
WIPG takes an active part in the IUPAP conferences on Women in Physics and the UK will host the 2017 conference. Therefore combined with membership of EPWS, WIPG has developed worldwide contacts with women physicists.


ICWIP Team photo
Members of the UK delegation to the 2014 IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics (ICWIP). Left to right: Dr Gillian Butcher, member of the IUPAP International Women in Physics Committee; Professor Brian Fulton, chair of the Juno Assessment Panel; Ann Marks, team leader and WIPG committee, Dr Nicola Wilkin, who is the chair of the local organising committee for 2017 ICWIP; and Dr Dawn Leslie, WIPG committee.


Speakers at the joint meeting between WIPG and the History of Physics Group on “The Lives and Times of Pioneering Women in Physics”. Left to right: Dr Heather Williams, chair of WIPG, Professor Gerry Lander; Dr Kate Crennell; Professor Gillian Gehring; Professor Hélène Langevin-Joliot, grand-daughter of Marie Curie, Dr Francis Duck and Dr Gillian Butcher



Read all the previous Interviews with our Members here


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