Women in Physics
Diane Grayson
Diane Grayson

Besides running her own consultancy, Diane Grayson is Professor Extraordinarius in the Physics Department at the University of Pretoria. Until February 2005 she was Professor of Science Education and Head of the Centre for the Improvement of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education at UNISA.

Qualifications needed for her position
PhD in physics, with physics education as her field of research.

What she does
Diane loves physics and wants other people to love it too. The first part of her job involves researching the difficulties people have in learning physics and developing teaching approaches that help them understand physics better. The second part involves implementing the research through a variety of means, including workshops, courses and programmes.

During the last 15 years she has been involved in running a foundation programme for talented but under prepared black students who wanted to become science professionals, assisting lecturers in science, engineering, medicine and agriculture to improve their curricula and teaching approaches.

Why physics?
It's so interesting! Physics is amazing in that it uses a few simple principles to explain everything in the universe. For example, the same principle can be used to explain why a siren sounds higher pitched when it comes towards you and lower pitched when it moves away as can be used to explain why the spectra of stars is shifted towards blue or red. And the application of these simple principles can have profound consequences, such as the discovery that the universe is expanding, which came about because of the observed shift in spectra of stars.

The future of physics in South Africa?
Physics can do a lot for South Africa and that South Africa has the potential to produce many good physicists. Prerequisites will be to:

  • improve school-based physics so that students find it interesting and can use it to learn fundamental concepts and important thinking skills; and
  • have an adequate supply of funding for research and development.

What about prospective female Physics students?
Go for it! Learning Physics equips you with an understanding of fundamental principles and a way of thinking that is powerful and tremendously valuable. And besides, it's fascinating.