CLF Outreach 2023
02 Apr 2024
- Megan Pritchard



We’re taking a look back at our 2023 outreach and reflecting on how we can continue to collaborate, inform and inspire with science at the CLF. 

The CLF Visitor Centre, filled with people for the Stargazing event.

​With 120 separate visits, 2023 saw the CLF welcome a variety of people and groups to the facility over the course of the year. 1,490 total guests (ranging from school students, government, and industry) was the highest number seen in the last eight years, especially good to see after the effects of the pandemic which saw many tours cancelled or continued virtually.

Amongst these visits were those organised for outreach purposes, particularly seeking to engage young people and inspire them towards careers in science and research. In 2023, 19 of these ‘Next Gen’ groups toured the CLF, ranging from students in primary and secondary education to graduates thinking of their next steps. This scheme aims to connect with these demographics in order to show the wide range of pathways within STEM and inspire students who may not yet see themselves represented as scientists.

International Day Of Light

In May we celebrated International Day of Light 2023. Around 200 secondary school pupils found out how to create supernovae with lasers and saw the Vulcan Control Room and future EPAC facility up close. This was an excellent opportunity to exhibit the excitement of laser science to students just beginning to pave their future, many of whom seemed invested in the talk with several thought-provoking questions being asked. This event also prompted the ‘what’s your favourite thing about lasers?’ board, which was filled with ideas from staff who were encouraged to think about the work and technology that inspired them. The question was then given to the visiting students, giving them an insight into the exciting world of scientific research through the varied responses from the team.


Talking Science

In the same month, Octopus scientist Andy Ward hosted a Talking Science lecture on optical trapping. His talk guided the audience through the fascinating method of laser tweezers. He explained how this technique is being used in real-life research to study atmospheric droplets or particles from a medical inhaler, and how scientists replicate conditions such as temperature, chemical make-up, and humidity in the lab. Out of the 148 people who attended, over half said they would find out more following the lecture.


Daresbury Open Week

One of the most memorable moments of 2023 was​ taking part in the Open Week at Daresbury Laboratory, where over 5,000 people visited on the 15th July alone to take part. The dedicated school days also saw 1,300 pupils from 50 schools across the region visit for curriculum-related activities, encouraging engagement with STEM.


The CLF featured an impressive 2-metre-long laser demonstration as well as showing off the new paper lanterns activity. These lanterns brought focus to the light that the CLF works with through a working circuit with LEDs, while tying in some creative fun. In the same way the different colours of Chinese lanterns have cultural significance, the different colours of lasers hold significance in science. 

The activities were very popular with visitors, with many people carrying their lanterns as they explored the laboratory. All of the CLF postcards featuring laser-themed designs by Impact and Engagement Officer Helen Towrie were gone by midday!

Visit from Culham Plasma School

Closer to home at RAL, the CLF held its annual visit from Culham Plasma School. Around 100 graduate students had the opportunity to take part in tours of the CLF and learn more about how the physics they study is applied in a variety of fields and industries, allowing us to demonstrate the multitude of career paths that can be taken in this area.

Visit from the Lightyear Foundation

In October, the facility welcomed a group of post-16 education students with the Lightyear Foundation, who encourage young disabled people to consider careers in STEM. Part of the day was hosted in the CLF Visitor Centre, featuring its interactive activities and an experiment with vacuums and marshmallows. The feedback was incredibly positive and reflected that the students enjoyed the visit and were more likely to think about a job that includes physics as a result.


IF Oxford

The CLF joined IF Oxford, the Oxfordshire Science Festival, and once again made circuit lanterns as well as bringing out the infrared camera for 200 attendees. Both activities were hugely popular, particularly engaging young children and getting them involved in the science of light and electricity.

Work Experience

STFC’s work experience program also seeks to provide hand-on experience for young people considering careers in STEM as they begin to think about post-16 education. These students spend two weeks working on a project supervised by a member of staff to enhance their learning and gain industrial skills. The CLF hosted 5 students this year who all said the project made them feel welcome and inspired, and noted that they would be likely to consider a role at STFC in the future. They all rated their project content 5/5!


Now into 2024, RAL has recently held its annual Stargazing featuring events across campus. The CLF Visitor Centre was opened up with all its demonstrations in an excellent display of how different technologies and sciences can come together in exciting fields such as space research. Over 600 people attended and gave an average rating of 4.7/5 - a great success.

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We look forward to bringing back all the brilliant activities that were so successful in 2023 over the course of this year. With this, and the ongoing CLF​ tours and experiences, we hope to continue to branch out our science to both students and the broader community, inspiring curiosity and collaboration with UK research.

Contact: Pritchard, Megan (STFC,RAL,CLF)