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My Outreach Career

 I started my career in outreach in the mid-1990's at the age of 19, during my Physics with Astrophysics integrated masters degree at the University of Leicester. It began when I was asked by the astronomy secretary to design & present planetarium shows for visiting school groups. Using the old Goto E-5 planetarium projector and an equally old mechanical slide projector to zoom into objects (which would often stick in the dark!), it evolved over the years to using an early data projector and music (my shows used to start with Fat Boy Slim's "Right here, right now"!). I also presented evening observing shows at the University of Leicester observatories on Manor Road.

The old Goto E-5 planetarium at the University of Leicester,
in the mid-1990's.

A news clipping from a local newspaper, cica 2000

 During my PhD, I started presenting talks about my research around the UK, for astronomy groups and specialist meetings, such as the British Astronomical Associations' Variable Star Section.

 What had been a sideline turned into a full time job upon arrival at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich in 2007. At the ROG, I developed and presented planetarium shows (using the Digistar3 system) to ~30,000 people per annum, developed and ran evening courses in astrophotography, and delivered observing evenings with the historical telescopes. During my time there, I also initiated the hugely successful “Astronomy Photographer of the Year” competition.

The historical 28" refractor at the
Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Telescopes at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

At the controls of the E&S Digistar3 system at the 120-seater Planetarium
at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

 In 2009, I began work at the University of Sussex in Brighton setting up a new outreach programme in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, thanks to the HEFCE-funded initiative, SEPnet - the South-East Physics Network.

Within a few years, I was overseeing 140 outreach events per year, attended by up to 15,000 people (the majority being KS3 & 4 students). Such large-scale outreach would not be possible if it wasn't for our wonderful (and inspirational) undergraduate students, who do the bulk of the outreach delivery. While I train interested freshers at the beginning of each year, much of the training is done by experience demonstrators passing on their knowledge and experience to the novices. More recently, based on the success of the outreach programme in Physics & Astronomy, we have expanded the outreach programme into Mathematics, and over the last few years have developed outreach activities for a wide range of students.

Visitors to our annual Star-gazing Live "Thermal Photo-booth" activity.