Schools - Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

The STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), near Didcot in Oxfordshire, is home to many of the UK’s most advanced research facilities and supports work in a range of areas including space science and astronomy, particle physics, nanotechnology and developing new materials.

RAL employs nearly 1,200 people and every year around 10,000 scientists and engineers use the Laboratory's facilities to advance their research.

A key part of STFC’s mission is to share our exciting work with schools and the public, and we are dedicated to encouraging young people to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. All events run by the RAL Public Engagement team are free of charge but must be booked and confirmed in advance.

For information on anything regarding our work with schools, please email the team below.

Thank You
STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Public Engagement Team
Sophy Palmer, Lauren Mowberry and Vicky Stowell

Dates for the Diary

Work Experience September 2017 Applications for our work experience programme will open at the start of September, and be open until the end of December. Work experience, or work shadowing, at the laboratory is a fantastic opportunity for students to find out what life is like as a scientist, engineer or computer scientist. All students wishing to visit the lab on work experience or work shadowing in the 2017-18 academic year must have applied by 31 December 2017. More information about work experience can be found on our website - the application form will be linked from here in September.
Chemistry at Work Friday 10 November 2017
09:30 – 15:35
KS4 students
The ISIS Neutron and Muon Source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory are hosting a Chemistry at Work event in partnership with the Royal Society of Chemistry aimed at GCSE students. The students will have the opportunity to visit the experimental hall and will learn about the incredible chemistry undertaken at the facility through talks, demonstrations and a series of hands-on activities. The day will finish with an exciting chemistry show. Schools can bring a maximum of 12 students, and priority will be given to local schools and students who have not already visited the facility. Lunch is included.

To register your interest for the Chemistry at Work event, please visit Eventbrite. Registration of interest closes on 5 October 2017, and places will be confirmed on Friday 6 October.
Talking Science Monday 13 November 2017 Bookings open for the winter talks.
Sun, Space, Art: Twilight Teacher Training Tuesday 14 November 2017
KS3 teachers
The STFC funded SunSpaceArt project brings together scientists and visual artists to work with children at KS2 and KS3. The SunSpaceArt team have already worked with several schools throughout the UK. Through creative activities the children have produced impressive, original, imaginative and beautiful art that communicates a deeper understanding of the Sun, the solar system and ‘Our Place in the Universe’. The SunSpaceArt team, led by Dr Helen Mason, University of Cambridge, will be running this twilight CPD session Helen will be joined by Geraldine Cox, Artist in Residence at Imperial College London, and Dr Alessandra Giunta, solar scientist, STFC-RAL Space. This session will allow you to bring more creativity into the classroom, with hands-on activities for KS3 students, linking closely with science topics such as: the solar system, light, gravity and magnetism.

To book a place on Sun, Space, Art: Twilight Teacher Training, please visit Eventbrite.
School Science Prize Closing Date 30 November 2017
Year 9 students
For our Year 9 School Science Prize we are asking students to write a 500 word essay entitled “Why I love science”. Entries must be received by midnight on 30 November 2017. All participating students will receive a certificate, and the top 15 students will be invited to RAL for an evening celebration on Tuesday 9 January 2018. The 15 finalists will receive a prize, a special tour of our high power lasers and be asked to give a two minute presentation on why they love science. The overall winner will receive an iPad mini.

To enter, students should email their essay to us, with their name, school and a teacher contact.
Key Stage 5 Education Access Day Thursday 23 November 2017
10:00 – 14:45
KS5 students
Visits to STFC facilities are a fabulous opportunity to see world-leading research facilities that are used by teams from around the world, and to meet with the scientists and engineers using them. For A-Level students, this is a chance to find out what life at a research facility is like, and open a window onto STEM at university and beyond. The day will include tours, hands-on activities and a fantastic talk, linked to the A-Level curriculum.

To register your interest in the Key Stage 5 Education Access Day, please visit Eventbrite. Registration of interest closes on 19 October 2017 and places will be allocated and confirmed on 20 October 2017.
Talking Science: Pressing FIRE on the most powerful laser in the world Friday 24 November 2017
13:30-14:30 / 19:00–20:00
Audience 14+
RAL is home to two of the world's most powerful lasers. They heat matter to millions of degrees in less than a trillionth of a second, rip apart the atom and generate the 4th state of matter, plasma. But why go to all this effort? These machines aren't just a physicist's playground. Super powerful lasers were developed for the hugely inspiring quest of fusion energy as a sustainable, clean heat source for power stations. Now they’re driving innovation in medical imaging, security inspection and nuclear waste management. Not bad for a fancy form of light.
Key Stage 3 Education Access Day Tuesday 5 December 2017
10:00 - 14:45
KS3 students
A visit to Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is a great way to engage the interest of your KS3 students, inspiring them to continue to study STEM subjects at GCSE and higher. The day will include a chance to tour some of our incredible experiments, a hands-on workshop linked to our work at the lab and a demonstration-filled show.

To register your interest in the Key Stage 3 Education Access Day, please visit Eventbrite.
Talking Science: Building a time machine: The engineering of the James Webb Space Telescope Friday 8 December 2017
13:30-14:30 / 19:00–20:00
Audience 7+
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the next large space observatory, built jointly by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Due to launch in 2018 it will allow astronomers to look back in time to the early universe and study the light of the first stars and galaxies that formed after the big bang. It will also revolutionise the study of exoplanets, with an ability to capture images and understand their atmospheres.

In this talk Paul will examine some of the major engineering challenges that have been overcome to build this revolutionary satellite and will look in depth at the design, build and testing of the UK-led Mid InfraRed Instrument (MIRI).
Talking Science: Last day of the dinosaurs Friday 26 January 2018
13:30-14:30 / 19:00–20:00
Audience 8+
Dinosaurs dominated the Earth for over 160 million years. The cause behind the extinction of this remarkably successful group has been much debated, but often centres on an impact triggered mass extinction event. The global occurrence of a rare earth element, iridium, supports a comet/meteorite impact at the KPg (Cretaceous/Palaeogene) boundary. A 180 km diameter crater situated beneath the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico) likely represents the main impact site. However, unique evidence has surfaced that might shed new light on the last day of the dinosaurs.
Talking Science: A science rapper’s guide to the solar system! Half term special for kids Friday 16 February 2018
11:00-12:00 / 14:00-15:00
Suitable for all ages
A tour of the solar system with a difference! Join science presenter Jon Chase as he demonstrates just how extreme our Solar system can be using raps, demos and lots of audience participation. He'll be answering questions like How big is the solar system? How puny is Pluto? How cold is a crater? What's the smelliest planet? Caution: contains facts of a humorous nature.
Talking Science Monday 5 March 2018 Bookings open for the spring/summer talks.
Talking Science: Fizz! Bang! Zap! Musical thunder to explore the Universe Friday 9 March 2018
13:30-14:30 / 19:00–20:00
Suitable for all ages
Explore the marvels of electricity like never before in an entertaining and demonstration-packed talk from resident particle accelerator physicist, Dr Scott Lawrie! Scott will show you why electricity is more exciting than just batteries and plug sockets, before turning your attention to acoustics and sound waves. Then he will bring all the concepts together to explain in simple terms how particle accelerators work and what we use them for. Prepare to be zapped as you unravel the mysteries of the universe!
Particle Physics Masterclass Tuesday 13 - Friday 16 March 2018
09:30 – 16:30
KS5 students
The National Particle Physics Masterclass is a popular series of one day events for sixth form students and their teachers, run by particle physics researchers at various institutes all over the country, and have proved stimulating and informative for thousands of students and hundreds of schools. These classes provide excellent support for the material on Particle Physics which is in many 16+ curricula. The Masterclasses at RAL provide the chance to hear talks by leading Particle Physicists from RAL and CERN, tour one of our accelerators and use data from the Large Hadron Collider to find a Higgs Boson. Programmes, photos and some lectures from previous years can be found on the RAL Masterclass website.

To register your interest in the Particle Physics Masterclass, please visit Eventbrite. Registration of interest closes on 7 November 2017, and places will be allocated and confirmed on 9 November 2017.
Talking Science: Clusters of galaxies: the shy giants of the cosmos Friday 13 April 2018
13:30-14:30 / 19:00-20:00
Audience 12+
Clusters of Galaxies, when viewed with telescopes on Earth and in space, are amongst the most beautiful objects in the night sky. Theirs is not a benign beauty: they play host to the most violent and energetic explosions in the present-day Universe. This lecture will review the historical contributions of that studies of clusters have made to the theory of Big Bang Cosmology, and also describe how current research into clusters at Sussex is uncovering the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy and black holes.
Talking Science: How to build a star – nuclear fusion on Earth Friday 11 May 2018
13:30-14:30 / 19:00-20:00
Audience 12+
Since 1920, when Arthur Eddington first proposed that it was nuclear fusion powering the stars, we have come a long way on the road towards harnessing its potential here on Earth. Replicating conditions similar to those in the core of the Sun is no mean feat, but it’s something that scientists and engineers at Culham now do routinely – in particular on JET, the world’s largest fusion machine. Join Sarah to hear about the work happening at Culham, and how this fits in to the global roadmap to commercial fusion power.
Talking Science: Seeing cancer before it’s cancer: illuminating the way with ALICE by seeing the invisible Friday 15 June 2018
13:30-14:30 / 19:00-20:00
Audience 15+
This talk is an introduction to the trailblazing work on cancer research at the STFC Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire. The work is looking at developing new ways to spot early signs of cancer. This research uses ALICE (Accelerators and Lasers In Combined Experiments), a state of the art particle accelerator at the Daresbury Laboratory, that delivers high intensity infrared light from advanced laser technology. This light gives the fingerprint of cancer and is used to image human cancer tissue and cells.
 

Work Experience

Student and mentor stood next to telescope

Students working as part of our work experience programme.
(Credit: STFC)

We run a large work experience programme at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory each year, taking (on average) around 100 students. For anyone wishing to apply, applications open at the beginning of September and close at the end of December each year. Applications are open to students in years 10, 11, 12 and 13 for placements in April through to August.

Due to the high volume of applications received, late applications will not be considered.

For more information and a link to the application form, please visit our work experience page.

 

 

Talking Science

Speaker interacting with members of the audience in a lecture theatre

Talking Science at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory with Stefan Gates.
(Credit: STFC)

Hosted at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, our programme of public lectures include a fascinating range of talks on a variety of different topics.

These are a great opportunity to inspire your students so we do hope that you’ll bring them along to one of our many talks. They are held on a Friday at lunchtime and again in the evening. The events are free to attend, but booking is essential.

To see our current list of talks, please visit our Talking Science webpage where you can download a copy of our brochure.

To book a Talking Science lecture, please visit Eventbrite.

 

 

Space Explorers Day

A group of children and parents learn how to launch rockets at an open day

Launching rockets with RAL Space.
(Credit: STFC)

In celebration of World Space Week, the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) hosts an annual Space Explorers Day for pupils in Years 5 and 6. RAL has been involved in over 200 space missions and so is the perfect place to get pupils excited about space. The day consists of a carousel of space themed activities followed by a demonstration-packed show.

 

 

Girls in Technology

6 school students being shown around the laser facilities

Finalists of the RAL School Science Prize visiting our laser facilities.
(Credit: STFC)

We are very pleased to be holding an event in collaboration with IBM to celebrate Girls in Technology in honour of Ada Lovelace Day. The day is designed to inspire Year 9 girls about the possibilities of a career in the technology industry.

Held at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the day will include demonstrations of innovative technology, the opportunity to network with professionals, an interactive Arduino coding challenge and an innovation workshop with prizes.

 

 

Chemistry at Work

Members of the public watch a demonstration on liquid nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen demonstration at Diamond Light Source.
(Credit: STFC)

The ISIS Neutron and Muon Source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory host an annual Chemistry at Work event in partnership with the Royal Society of Chemistry aimed at GCSE students. The students have the opportunity to visit the ISIS experimental hall and learn about the incredible chemistry undertaken at the facility through talks, demonstrations and a series of hands-on activities. The day finishes with an exciting chemistry show. Schools can bring a maximum of 12 students, and priority is given to local schools and students who have not already visited the facility. Lunch is included.

 

 

Teacher Training (CPD) Workshops

A man and a woman building a model of the solar system

Big Telescopes Teacher Training.
(Credit: STFC)

We run a host of free workshops for teachers throughout the year on a variety of different topics. In the past we have run them on the themes of:

  • Inside the atom
  • Computing for primary schools
  • Big telescopes
  • Dark sky discovery (primary)
  • Big data and computing
  • Neutrons and biology
  • Nuclear physics

To be put on our teacher mailing list to hear about any upcoming training opportunities, please email us your details.

 

 

School Science Prize

4 school children building a model as part of a hands on activity

Hands-on activities at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
(Credit: STFC)

For the School Science Prize we ask Year 9 students to write a 500 word essay entitled “Why I love science”. All participating students receive a certificate, and the final 15 students are invited to RAL for an evening celebration in January 2018. The 15 finalists are invited to have a tour before the celebration event – and gave a two minute presentation on why they love science. Entries open in September and close in November.

For more information, visit our School Science Prize webpage.

 

 

Education Access Days

A group of school children undertaking activities in the visitor centre

Painting MICE at RAL.
(Credit: STFC)

Visits to STFC facilities are a fabulous opportunity to see a working laboratory that is used by teams from around the world, and to meet with the scientists and engineers who work here. Days include tours, talks and hands-on workshops that are tailored to the appropriate age group and curriculum and are a great way to inspire students with the excitement of cutting-edge research and its impact on our everyday life.

"I enjoyed the tour because it put the theory from classes into practice. We have studied ISIS quite extensively, so it was good to see it for real."
A-level student
Wycombe High School

These days are run throughout the academic year for Key Stages 2, 3 and 5.

To be put on our schools mailing list to hear about any upcoming events, please email us your details (stating whether you want to go on the primary or secondary mailing list).

 

 

Particle Physics Masterclass

4 students being shown some of the technology behind the Diamond Light Source

Tours of Diamond Light Source during a Particle Physics Masterclass.
(Credit: STFC)

The National Particle Physics Masterclass is a popular series of one day events for sixth form students and their teachers, run by particle physics researchers at various institutes all over the country. Since the inception of the programme in 1997, they have proved to be stimulating and informative for thousands of students and hundreds of schools. These classes provide excellent support for the material on Particle Physics which is in many 16+ curricula.

The National Particle Physics Masterclass is a popular series of one day events for sixth form students and their teachers, run by particle physics researchers at various institutes all over the country. Since the inception of the programme in 1997, they have proved to be stimulating and informative for thousands of students and hundreds of schools. These classes provide excellent support for the material on Particle Physics which is in many 16+ curricula.

The Masterclasses at RAL provide the chance to hear talks by leading Particle Physicists from RAL and CERN, tour one of our accelerators and carry out a computer simulation activity with staff from RAL’s prestigious Particle Physics Department. Programmes, photos and lectures from previous years can be found on the RAL Masterclass website.

As these days are very popular, the masterclass is repeated four times in one week each year.

 

 

Young Scientist of the Year Awards

2 young scientists stood in front of a dinosaur skeleton in the main atrium at the University of Oxford's Museum of Natural History

RAL speakers at Young Scientist of the Year event at the University of Oxford's Museum of Natural History.
(Credit: STFC)

To nominate a student and find out more information, please visit the Science Oxford webpage.

We are delighted to support the Young Scientist of the Year Awards which are run by Science Oxford. Oxfordshire’s secondary schools are invited to nominate their best Year 13 students in Physics, Biology and Chemistry to be recognised for their achievements in the past year. The awards ceremony is held each year at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in October.

 

 

Ada Lovelace Challenge Day

4 school students working together on a computing challenge

Ada Lovelace Challenge Day at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
(Credit: STFC)

Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. To celebrate, RAL hosts a computing challenge day for teams of four students from Year 8 or 9. The day is designed to introduce students to the excitement of computing. As well as an exciting challenge, the students are given a tour of our Scientific Computing facility.

To be put on our schools mailing list to hear about any upcoming events, please email us your details.

 

 

Faraday Challenge Day at RAL

3 students working together with the help of an STFC Computing Apprentice

Students at a Faraday Challenge Day.
(Credit: STFC)

Engineering is an essential part of all of the research we do at RAL and to help showcase this we are pleased to take part in the IET’s national programme of Faraday Challenge Days. Teams of Year 8 students are given an engineering challenge and one day to solve it. For more information please see our Faraday Challenge webpage.

 

 

Big Bang at RAL

A student experimenting with cloud chambers

Making cloud chambers at RAL.
(Credit: STFC)

A visit to the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is a unique opportunity to inspire students with the world-leading research that takes place here, covering everything from space science to super-intense lasers. The day is run for year 7 students and includes a series of hands-on activities and a demonstration-filled show.

To be put on our schools mailing list to hear about any upcoming events, please email us your details.

 

Career Days

 

Science in Your Future

2 students working on some hands on activities at an open day

Hands-on activities at Science in Your Future.
(Credit: STFC)

Science in Your Future is a careers event designed to give female KS4 students the opportunity find out more about different careers available to them if they choose to progress with work or study in the field of science. It is co-hosted by Diamond Light Source, and there will be an exclusive tour of Diamond during the day for all students and teachers.

We are delighted to have scientists and engineers from our external partners at thes events, who run a series of interactive workshops. There is also the opportunity to speak to people from other organizations that support maths, science, computing and engineering over a lunch time networking fair. Lunch is provided.

To be put on our schools mailing list to hear about any upcoming events, please email us your details.

 

 

Engineering Your Future

Students stood around watching an enngineer demonstrating using a robot arm

Students visit our metrology lab.
(Credit: STFC)

Engineering Your Future is a careers event to help key stage 5 students find out more about different careers available to them if they choose to progress with work or study in the field of engineering. It is co-hosted by Diamond Light Source, Oxfordshire’s very own synchrotron, and includes an exclusive tour of Diamond during the day for all students and teachers.

We are delighted to have scientists and engineers from our external partners at thes events, who run a series of interactive workshops. There is also the opportunity to speak to people from other organizations that support maths, science, computing and engineering over a lunch time networking fair. Lunch is provided.

To be put on our schools mailing list to hear about any upcoming events, please email us your details.

 

 

Computing Your Future

A group of students stood around a model of the ISIS Neutron and Muon Beamline

Students learn about the ISIS Facility.
(Credit: STFC)

Computing Your Future is a careers event to help key stage 3 students find out more about different careers available to them if they choose to progress with work or study in the field of computing. It is co-hosted by Diamond Light Source, Oxfordshire’s very own synchrotron, and includes an exclusive tour of Diamond during the day for all students and teachers.

We are delighted to have scientists and engineers from our external partners at thes events, who run a series of interactive workshops. There is also the opportunity to speak to people from other organizations that support maths, science, computing and engineering over a lunch time networking fair. Lunch is provided.

To be put on our schools mailing list to hear about any upcoming events, please email us your details.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000