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Professor Paul Roche

Professor Paul Roche

Chair of Astronomy Education
Director of Postgraduate Taught Studies

Email
rochepd@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2068 7197
Campuses
McKenzie House 4.15, McKenzie House, 30-36 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 0DE

Overview

I'm an astronomer who now specialises in outreach and education, working with schools to develop astronomy and space-themed STEM education resources and programmes.

           Current roles:

  • Chair of Astronomy Education, School of Physics & Astronomy (PHYSX)
  • Director of Postgraduate Taught Studies (DPGT), PHYSX
  • Chair, PGT Exam Board, PHYSX
  • Chair, PGT Board of Studies, PHYSX
  • Member, PHYSX SREC
  • Member, Programme and Partner Standing Panel (University)
  • UK National Outreach Co-ordinator (International Astronomical Union)

    Current/recent STEM education projects:

  • Comet Chasers
  • UniverseLab (Trio Sci Cymru)
  • Down2Earth
  • Mission2Mars
  • Our space, our future
  • Online Observatory

Biography

I originally studied geophysics at Southampton University (1986-1989) before moving disciplines to astrophysics and gaining a PhD from Southampton in 1993, studying X-ray binary systems (i.e. star systems containing a "normal" star with either a black holes or neutron star companion).

Following postdoctoral research at Southampton, I was appointed Lecturer in Astronomy at Sussex (1994-1999), before becoming the first Head of Education at the National Space Centre, Leicester (1999-2001). I then moved back to Cardiff, where I was jointly Senior Lecturer at Glamorgan (2001-2003) and Walter Hudson Senior Research Fellow at Cardiff University (2001-2005). In addition, I have also been an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Leicester (1999-2004); Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Open University (2006-2009); Educational Programmes Consultant at Techniquest (2002-2006), and Director of Education and Public Outreach at Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope, California (2007-2009).

I have spent over 25 years working in astronomy, initially researching massive stars, neutron stars and black holes, but now mainly specialise in using astronomy and space science to encourage students of all ages (primary school to adult education) to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

In this capacity, I was the UK National Schools’ Astronomer from 2001-2011, and Director of the Faulkes Telescope Project from 2002-2022. In 2010 I was appointed as the European Space Agency (ESERO-UK) “Space Ambassador for Wales”, acting as link between research, industry, education and the general public (until end of 2021).

After returning to the Univ. of Glamorgan in 2009, I established a group working in both astronomical research and education, using robotic, Internet-controlled telescopes, and developed a new BSc Observational Astronomy programme. I was appointed Professor of Astronomy Education at the Univ. of South Wales (the re-named Univ. of Glamorgan) in 2012, and was President of the Association for Science Education Cymru (2013-2015).

I returned to Cardiff University in 2015, where I am currently Chair of Astronomy Education, Director of Postgraduate Taught Studies and course co-ordinator for the astrophysics-related MSc programmes.

Outside of academia, I am a black belt/instructor in several Chinese martial arts, a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor, and was director of a diver training company (ScubaQuest, until Sept. 2022).

Honours and awards

  • IAU National Outreach Co-ordinator (2022)
  • PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (2021)
  • Appointed Chair of Astronomy Education (Cardiff Uni) (2020)
  • Appointed Chair of Astronomy Education (Uni of South Wales) (2012)
  • STFC Science in Society Personal Fellowship (2009)
  • STFC Science in Society Personal Fellowship (2006)
  • PPARC National Award for Public Understanding of Science (2004)
  • PPARC National Award for Public Understanding of Science (2000)
  • University of Sussex Teaching Excellence Award (1997)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society
  • Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Member, Institute of Physics

Academic positions

  • 09/92  09/94             Postdoc Research Associate, Physics & Astronomy, Uni. Southampton
  • 10/94  02/99             Lecturer  Astronomy Centre, Uni. Sussex
  • 02/99  11/00             Head of Education  National Space Centre, Leicester
  • 02/99  01/04             Honorary Lecturer  Physics & Astronomy, Uni. Leicester
  • 08/01  09/03             Visiting Research Fellow  Applied Sciences, Uni. Glamorgan
  • 11/00  11/02             Project Scientist, Faulkes Telescope Project
  • 11/02  09/03             Senior Lecturer, Uni. Glamorgan
  • 01/01  12/03             Hudson Senior Research Fellow,  PHYSX, Cardiff Uni.
  • 06/01  05/04             Visiting Research Fellow  Physics & Astronomy, Open Uni.
  • 11/02  03/06             Educational Programmes Consultant, Techniquest Science Centre
  • 11/02  03/22             Director, Faulkes Telescope Project
  • 03/05  03/07             Staff Scientist, Las Cumbres Observatory
  • 02/06  02/09             Visiting Senior, Lecturer  Open Uni.
  • 03/07  07/09             Director of Education and Public Outreach, Las Cumbres Observatory
  • 11/08   06/14            Principle Lecturer/Subject Leader in Astronomy, Uni. of Glamorgan
  • 04/10  12/21             ESERO-UK “Space Ambassador” for Wales, ESERO-UK
  • 06/12  06/15             Professor of Astronomy Education, Uni. of South Wales
  • 06/15  09/20             Reader/MSc Astrophysics Co-ordinator, Cardiff Uni
  • 10/20  present          Chair of Astronomy Education Cardiff Uni

Committees and reviewing

  • Chair, PGT Exam Board
  • Member, Cardiff University Programme and Partner Standing Panel
  • Member, PHYSX ED&I Committee
  • Member, PHYSX School Research Ethics Committee

  • Member, STFC Spark Awards Panel
  • Member, STFC Legacy Awards Panel

  • UK National Outreach Co-ordinator (International Astronomical Union)
  • International Liaison Officer, Federation of Astronomical Societies

Publications

2022

2021

2019

2003

2002

2001

Teaching

I currently teach on several MSc core modules:

  • PXT991 Advanced Techniques in Physics and Astrophysics (Deputy Module Organiser)
  • PXT992 Advanced Study and Research Skills (Module Organiser)
  • PXT999 Research Project (Deputy Module Organiser)

and the 1st year autumn term module:

  • PX1127 Planet Earth (Deputy Module Organiser)

In addition, I usually supervise several 3rd and 4th year undergraduate project students and MSc summer research dissertation students each year.

I am mainly interested in how we use astronomy and space science to encourage school students to study STEM subjects, so I am actively engaged in leading a number of national projects in these areas (e.g.Comet Chasers, Mission2Mars, Down2Earth) as well as working with the Cardiff Children's University to help develop closer links with local schools and the university.

I am currently (Oct. 2022- July 2023) seconded (1 day/week) to work with Cardiff Council, developing space-themed STEM education programmes as part of the Cardiff Children's University plans to develop closer links with Cardiff University and support the new Curriculum for Wales.

Supervision

Current PhD student supervision:

  • Cai Stoddard-Jones (Cardiff University, f/time, comets and schools education)
  • Gemma Lavender (Cardiff University, p/time:  

    “The role of popular science writing in astronomy and space science in encouraging women into STEM”)

2nd supervisor:

  • Helen Usher (Open University, p/time, comets and outreach)
  • Debbie Syrop (Cardiff University, School of Engineering, f/time, engineering outreach and education)

Past projects

Previous PhD students:

Cardiff:

  • Sophie Bartlett (astronomy education)
  • Vanessa Stroud (massive binary stars)
  • Fraser Lewis (low mass X-ray binaries)

Sussex:  

  • Hanna Quaintrell (low mass X-ray binaries)
  • Luisa Morales (intermediate polars) 

Open University: (1st supervisor: Prof. Andrew Norton)

  • Tim Ash (high mass X-ray binaries)
  • Diana Maxwell (high mass X-ray binaries)