By Holly Rubenstein
(Reuters) – British physics professor Brian Cox taught students at St. Paul’s Way Trust School in London on Tuesday how to create fire with methane gas.
The school is hosting a science summer school and invited the celebrity physicist, who says he hopes the project will bring in those from different backgrounds.
“We often hear – it’s true actually – that we have a shortage across the world of scientists and engineers,” Cox told Reuters.
But Cox, an advanced fellow of particle physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester, noted that a shortage of engineers does not translate into a lack of interest from students.
“There is no shortage of enthusiasm for students and young people when you talk about science and engineering,” Cox said.
The students agreed, noting that performing experiments with Cox ignited their interest in the subject.
“It makes science more fun and practical and makes you want to find out how stuff like that happens,” one student said standing in front of a wall filled with science charts.
“Because of what he was saying it gave me ideas of what I could actually do and it helped me a lot,” another student chimed.
Cox pointed out that the difficulty many of the students at the inner-city school, whose demographic is mainly ethnic minority students, may face is the fact that families members haven’t experienced higher education or gone through university.
“They may not even know anyone who’d done that,” Cox said.
“Even though they’re close to one of the biggest cities in the world, with lots of world class universities, it might as well have been a thousand miles away. But what this does is make those connections,” Cox added.
In an interview following the experiment, Cox reflected on the importance of funding and international collaboration within science – issues that have been raised since the June 2016 Brexit vote.
“Ultimately it’s about giving information to people about why this is valuable,” said Cox, presenter of a five-part television documentary series titled Wonders of Life.
(Reporting by Holly Rubenstein in London; Writing by Melissa Fares in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)