Elizabeth Crilly


BSc Pure and Applied Physics                   -  Queens University Belfast

MSc Medical Physics and Bio-Engineering - Aberdeen University

PGCE                                                          -  Homerton College, University of Cambridge

Daphne Jackson Research Fellow             -  Surrey University

I have worked with both Unilever Research  and Smith and Nephew Research and then followed a career in teaching for 6 years. I was awarded a teaching Fellowship by The Ogden Trust . On my return to research with the support of  being awarded a Daphne Jackson Fellowship for women returners to Science and Education, I was enabled to work on an industrial application of MRI; looking at diffusion in soil polysaccharides .  With a family relocation to Cambridge I took up a research post at Cambridge University and Papworth Hospital on a medical engineering project for the design of a novel device to map the electrical activity of the heart in order to identify patients at risk of Sudden Cardiac Death.   Taking a final career break for the birth of our fourth child I returned to work in STEM Education, leading a small charity, STEM Team East, which managed almost 1,000 volunteer STEM professionals from industry, business and universites, working with schools and running large STEM Fairs, events and national STEM enrichment schemes . I am now registered with the university to research Physics Education in the Physics Education Research Group as part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.    

Research interests

The number of school students who opt to study physics, and in turn the number who proceed onto university for physics or related degrees, has remained at a very low level compared to other subjects, for over 4 decades (National Audit Offices, IOP).  There is a substantial body of research into factors which constrain the progression in physics.  These factors have been identified relating to low uptake of physics by female students due to stereotype behaviour, confidence factors, subject gender bias in presentation and resources, unconscious bias in selection procedures and teaching styles which therefore present challenges to 50% of the school population.  In addition both male and female students may face the challenges laid down by negative socioeconomic impact, differences in Science Capital (Archer 2012) and differences in exam pass rates for physics compared to other subjects (IOP Charles Tracey, private communication 2017)

In addition to this background of challenges to learning it is a commonly held belief that ‘Physics is Hard’ and so in essence this research explores what this means by analysing the success of those volunteer participants who have at least one qualification in physics. We aim to collate their experiences of learning and succeeding in physics to assess, and possibly measure, through a mixed quantitative and qualitative study how they succeeded in navigating their way along the progression pathway against this background of hurdles.  Mostly we aim to research how they succeeded in their learning and understanding of physics.  Their mental strategies and cognitive processes; their behaviours and attributes that helped them overcome the ‘hard’ factor of physics.


  • BSc Pure and Applied Physics
  • MSc Medical Physics and Bio- Engineering
  • PGCE

Research groups and institutes

  • Physics Education