NUSTEM grew out of a project called Think Physics.
Established in 2014, Think Physics was part-funded for three years by a Higher Education Funding Council for England Catalyst grant. The aim of the project was to increase the number of young people from the North East studying physics and physics-related degrees. For around ten years there hadn’t been any physics degrees on offer in Newcastle. Northumbria University started offering degrees in Physics and Physics with Astrophysics from September 2013, and Think Physics was part of the plan to develop a strong and accessible physics base for students in the region.
The project was – and continues to be – a partnership of local authorities, visitor centres, industry and academia from across the North-East. The founding partners were: Northumbria University, Centre for Life, Institute of Physics, North Tyneside Learning Trust, Newcastle Local Authority, Gateshead Local Authority, Durham Local Authority, North Tyneside Local Authority, Kielder Observatory and Solar Capture Technology.
Northumbria University provided both office space and a newly-refurbished multi-use outreach space, Think Lab, situated within the Faculty of Engineering and Environment. Think Lab provides a dedicated space that can be used with local schools to offer a taste of university life. It’s co-located with an undergraduate study area and social area, used extensively by physics, maths and engineering students; visiting pupils work alongside university students.
As the HEFCE funding came to an end, Think Physics rebranded as the NUSTEM (pronounced N. U. STEM) group. The name change recognised both that we are no longer ‘just’ a project, and more importantly that our ongoing remit is much wider than supporting only Physics within the faculty and region.