I’m very pleased to be awarded Chartered Physicist status by the Institute of Physics!
Chartered Physicist (CPhys) is a professional qualification awarded by the Institute of Physics (IOP). To paraphrase the IOP webpage, CPhys represents the highest standards of professionalism, up-to-date expertise, quality and safety, and holders have demonstrated the capacity to undertake independent practice and exercise leadership. Chartered Physicists have attained an integrated masters degree in physics, acquired a breadth of physics related competence and have exercised significant levels of responsibility for a sustained period of time. The title also denotes commitment to keep pace with advancing knowledge and with the increasing expectations and requirements for which any profession must take responsibility.
Roughly twelve years ago, I was mid-way through my A-Level studies. I had chosen to study physics, maths and chemistry, which were the prerequisites for studying physics and astronomy at university. I had my heart set on studying these topics. Unfortunately, we had a terrible physics teacher. I won’t name and shame – it’s been too long and there is no point.
This teacher managed to first dissuade two out of our small class of five students from taking the subject, then apparently decided to give up on teaching the rest of us. Some lessons would be wasted by letting us freely roam the internet, but the best, most memorable lessons were spent with each student alternatively reading out loud paragraphs from the textbooks. The teacher couldn’t be bothered learning all of our names, so would just number us 1 to 3, and call us out by number to start and stop reading. It made me really angry and frustrated at the time – it was clearly not teaching us anything. We complained and complained, but it was very difficult for the school to take any action in removing/replacing the teacher. Thankfully, I had the support of some fantastic teachers at the school, who gave us extra lessons, and help and advice when making my our own way through the syllabus.
I dredge up this story of this particular teacher because he compensated his poor quality teaching with a heavy reliance on the free educational material and posters available from the IOP. In hindsight, I realise that he introduced me to the IOP’s services and professional qualifications, which surprisingly had a positive influence on my development. I kept in mind these qualifications and at each stage in my career – from undergraduate to postgrad to postdoc – checked to see how many of the requirements I had achieved and whether or not I was working at the required level. Finally, I reached a point where I could confidently apply for Chartered Physicist status.
Certainly, the 18-year-old me did not fully appreciate the amount of effort over the past decade necessary to meet the requirements of the qualification. Most effort involved many, many late nights of struggling to understand and solve physics problems. So I’m very happy to finally attain chartered status. I have had a lot of help and support from many people along the way: family, friends and peers, teachers, supervisors and colleagues, and I thank you all – you know who you are!
Yet now that I’ve reached this goal, it doesn’t end here: the right to remain a chartered physicist has to be justified every three years by showing continued professional development. So – back to work now!