Trinity 2016

Week 1: How to be a Physicist

“How do you choose a PhD and is it wise to stay in Oxford? How does the work atmosphere in academia or national laboratories compare to the work atmosphere in industry? Is being a physicist a job or a lifestyle?”

This legendary stuff only comes about every two years. We’re really privileged to have a great panel of physicists from a host of different backgrounds and with different experiences share their outlook on a career in physics academia. Submit questions here.

We’re very excited to introduce our panel for the event:

Steve Simon is a tutor at Somerville, and professor of theoretical physics. His current research is on ’emergent phenomena in quantum condensed matter physics’. Before coming to Oxford, Steve was a research director at Bell Laboratories.

John Wheater is head of the physics department, and professor of theoretical physics. His current research interest is quantum gravity. John joined the academic staff at Oxford 30 years ago, and won the 1993 Maxwell Medal, awarded by the IOP for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics.

Androula Alekou is a postdoctoral research assistant with the particle physics department. She’s currently working on an upgrade of the Diamond Light Source. Before coming to Oxford, Androula worked at CERN on development of a collimation system for the proton synchrotron.

Fran Kirschner is a DPhil student with Oxford’s condensed matter department, supervised by Prof. Stephen Blundell. While she was an undergraduate at Mansfield college, Fran was head of OUPS back in 2013-14!



Week 2: Michael Berry

Michael Berry is fascinated by the relations between physical theories – between classical and quantum, ray and wave optics a whole host of phenomena lie – from emergent classicality and decoherence to extreme coherence of waves. A striking feature of physics is the extent to which old theories are embedded in newer, more general ones. But these limits tend to be singular, and hence flirt with our idea of infinity. Michael is best known for his seminal work on the Berry phase in quantum mechanics and will be talking on how theories of light exhibit the above features – here’s the abstract:

“Optical phenomena visible to everyone have been central to the development of, and abundantly illustrate, important concepts in science and mathematics. The phenomena considered include rainbows, sparkling reflections on water, mirages, green flashes, earthlight on the moon, glories, daylight, crystals, and the squint moon. The concepts include refraction, caustics (focal singularities of ray optics), wave interference,numerical experiments, mathematical asymptotics, dispersion, complex angular momentum (Regge poles), polarization singularities, Hamilton’s conical intersections of eigenvalues (‘Dirac points’), geometric phases, and visual illusions.”

Hey its a malestrom of physics, but whoever would have doubted that the most striking feature of our primitive way of saying when two things are similar, colour, would not have revelaed rich and beautiful physics?

Week 3: Practical Advice for Applying to Physics PhD’s by Dan Martin, OUPS President 2014/15

Dan Martin will be sharing his experiences, thoughts and advice on the process of applying for a PhD. Many of you have probably mused about it at some point, and whether your dead set or wavering, its good to have an idea of what applying involves. Here’s a description of what he’ll say from the man himself:

“It pays to be thoughtful and organised with applying for PhD’s, as mistakes can be made. It’s still rather early in the process, but I hope to pass on some of the tricks and lessons I have figured out whilst applying this past year. Primarily aimed at those graduating in 2017.”


Week 4: Simon Hooker

Could we fit an accelerator of comparable strength into a lab the size of the Clarendon? Our modern accelerators are fundamentally based on the theory of Electromagnetism. A laser generates electric fields much more intense than those we use at the LHC, and so can be used to construct more powerful accelerators. Simon will be talking to us about the potential of this approach and the problems it faces. Here’s the abstract:

“How can we accelerate particles with lasers – and could this approach ever be used to fit an LHC-like collider into the Clarendon Lab?

In a laser plasma accelerator particles are accelerated by the electric fields developed within the plasma wave driven by an intense laser pulse. These fields are more than a thousand times higher than those produced by a conventional radio-frequency accelerator, allowing the accelerator to be shrunk by the same factor. 

In this talk I will describe how laser-plasma accelerators work, give an overview of recent developments, and describe some demonstrations of potential applications. I will also discuss some of the challenges which must be met before laser-plasma accelerators find real-world applications.”


Talks are generally on Thursdays at 8:15PM in the Martin Wood Lecture Theatre.£10 Life membership, £4 per talk for non-members.

We are proudly sponsored by Metaswitch Networks and Jane Street.