University of Hull's Professor Brad Gibson makes 1,000th school appearance to get children interested in physics and space

Professor Brad Gibson knows how to get young ones interested in science: talk to them about the stinking gas cloud at the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy, the search for alien life, or technology like WiFi developed through the study of outer space.

It also helps if, as a bonus, some lucky pupils get to hold a piece of the moon in their hands.

And now the University of Hull physics professor has made his 1,000th visit to a school in the region after notching up a list of 100 schools hooked on his talks.

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Prof Gibson started making the visits seven years ago in a bid to boost recruitment, but he found he enjoyed making them so much that he dedicated more time to them, expanding their reach into nursery and primary schools through to retired-age students across the country.

Professor Brad Gibson of the University of Hull.Professor Brad Gibson of the University of Hull.
Professor Brad Gibson of the University of Hull.

His analysis of students joining to study Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hull suggest his visits have a lasting impact.

Seven years ago, around 15 per cent of students studying Physics came from a college the University of Hull had a relationship with - now it is around half.

The UK analysis of students taking up physics at A-Level shows the greatest increase in those studying the subject outside of London to be those based in the Yorkshire and Humber region, says the university. It was up 17 per cent between 2017 and 2021, according to the Government’s Explore Education Statistics dataset.

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Having reached around 70,000 pupils, Prof Gibson can claim to have contributed.

His 1,000th visit was made on Wednesday, October 17, to Thoresby Primary School, the seventh time he has visited the west Hull school since 2019.

Prof Gibson, who almost every week is stopped in the street by a student or a parent who want to thank him for sharing his knowledge, said: “I really like it when I manage to maintain a relationship with a school because you get to see children progress and you can really help build their imaginations and knowledge.”

He focuses on visiting schools who draw large numbers of pupils who are living in deprived communities, because he wants to give them opportunities.

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Prof Gibson often takes undergraduates with him, and wherever possible he takes students who have grown up in challenging circumstances, so they can help him to inspire the next generation of scientists.

He said: “It feels like important work. I can see the excitement on their faces as I walk in and they are eager to learn, which is very rewarding for me.

"It all started because I wanted to improve recruitment and I was prepared to play the long game, but as it has gone on, it got deeper than that.

"It is critical to give children access to opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have in society. I try and show them that science can be an exciting career.”

Schools can arrange a free visit from Prof Gibson by emailing [email protected]