11 March 2016

Top scientist returns to The Coleshill School to help students reach for the stars

In the autumn of 2015 Dr Karen Masters, now a senior lecturer at Portsmouth University’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, spent the day with the Coleshill School’s talented year 11 triple scientists and year 8 students as they prepared to choose their options, delivering a Galaxy Zoo STEM workshop.

Karen, who is a former talented student and attended the Coleshill School from 1991 to 1995, scooped this year’s science category of the ‘Women of the Future’ Award for her research into understanding how galaxies form and evolve over the history of the universe.

Having obtained As and A*s at GCSE she went on to gain straight As in Physics, Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry at A level. She attended Oxford University in l997 and graduated with a first class degree in Physics. From there she attended Cornell University in New York, gaining a masters in Astronomy and then completed her post doctoral research at Harvard University in Cambridge.

Karen said:

It’s been a real pleasure to come back and visit my old school. I hope I’m an example to any student here at the Coleshill School of how anything is possible and that everyone should dream big. I also hope that more students will consider studying Science, particularly Physics, following my visit.”

Students thoroughly enjoyed her Galaxy Zoo workshop and were spellbound throughout the day. They learnt all about the Andromeda galaxy, radio telescopes and numerous forms of light and had the opportunity to carry out
numerous experiments such as the effects of heat and cold in infra red light and the building of their own
spectroscopes to look at the spectra of different illuminated sources.

Student Sophie Reynolds,said:

We had the pleasure of working alongside Dr Karen Masters, a physicist who specialises in astronomy. Dr Masters has had a really successful career and attended Oxford University and Harvard University, however the truly inspiring part of all, is that she first started out in our very own school! Due to her knowledge of her subject, interested students had the chance to ask about different careers in physics. Overall the session was really informative and enjoyable.

Pupils and had the opportunity to study the many forms of light and the Andromeda Galaxy which was truly fascinating. Children also created their very own CD-spectroscopes to experiment with light.

The session was a brilliant way to inspire and engage with everyone and the whole session was really enjoyable for
us. Many thanks to the science department for organising and arranging such a brilliant way to learn, this really was a great investment of time.

Student Alice Connally said,

After the article I wrote about our STEM club was published in The Coleshill Post, a lady called Dr Karen Masters wanted to come in and talk to us about physics and astronomy. We spent the afternoon listening to her talk all about different galaxies and space and different forms of light. I particularly enjoyed making the spectroscope, an instrument used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and helps us find out what stars are made of. It disperses, or separates, white light from a star into a very wide spectrum of colours. I really enjoyed talking to Dr Masters it was really great to learn new things about astronomy.”

Oliver Hall said:

I really enjoyed using the infra red camera. We could see the temperature of different
objects around the room, including ourselves!” Hannah Morley also said “I found her talk very interesting indeed and really enjoyed making my spectroscope.”

Miss Kathryn Rollason, the school’s STEM Co-ordinator and teacher of Science, who organised the visit, said:

It has been such a fantastic day of activities for our year 11 and year 8 Physics students. All students loved hearing about Karen’s amazing experiences as an astronomer and all about our nearest galaxy. They particularly enjoyed making their own astronomical instruments out of household materials.

We were delighted to be able to welcome Karen back to the school today. She was an incredibly gifted student
who has gone on to enjoy a hugely successful career and we know her achievements and passion for science will
really inspire the next generation of our scientists, Technologists, Engineers and Mathematicians who
regularly attend our STEM club every week from all year groups.”


Dr Masters, through the infra red camera drawing a beard on her face with a piece of ice