Major New Funding for Scottish Physics
(November 2009) Glasgow is one of eight Scottish universities which are to share almost £48 million to grow their physics research capabilities in a move which will cement the nation as a global leader in scientific research and discovery. The universities and leading Scottish scientists say the investment will have multiple spin-out benefits for Scotland well beyond the confines of pure physics research. Medical research and technology, industrial and commercial activity, the higher education sector and the NHS will all benefit.
A view through a METATOY: a sheet covered with tiny Dove prisms mimicks negative refraction in metamaterials. Here, a straight line perpendicular to the sheet appears bent into a hyperbola.
(October 2009) The work of research student Alasdair Hamilton was recently highlighted by Optics & Photonics Focus, an international online magazine "highlighting the best in optics and photonics". Alasdair works on METATOYs: structured windows that refract the direction of transmitted light in very unusual ways, and which in this way create bizarre visual effects.
And what could METATOYs possibly stand for? The original idea for METATOYs came from analogies with metamaterials: materials that are artificially structured on the nanometre scale to engineer their optical properties. "We decided to name our materials METATOYs, a shoehorned acronym that stands for metamaterials for ray optics," says Johannes Courtial, lecturer in the Optics group. "In addition to analogies with metamaterials, this acronym also expresses the fun we were having working on this project."
LHC first collisions
(November 2009) The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has circulated two beams simultaneously for the first time, allowing the operators to test the synchronization of the beams and giving the experiments their first chance to look for proton-proton collisions.
With just one bunch of particles circulating in each direction, the beams can be made to cross in up to two places in the ring. From early in the afternoon of November 23rd, the beams were made to cross at points 1 and 5, home to the ATLAS and CMS detectors, both of which were on the lookout for collisions. Later, beams crossed at points 2 and 8, ALICE and LHCb.
The Glasgow group has been working on the silicon trackers for the ATLAS and LHCb experiments and it was gratifying to see the detectors working as planned, taking data from these first LHC collisions.
European Grid Prize
(October 2009) Research Associate Stuart Purdie was awarded a prize in the poster session at this year's EGEE (European Grid for E-sciencE) conference. His work updates the popular qsub command for a grid-enabled world making it easier for users to migrate from local batch systems to global grid resources.
The gqsub software has a proven track record: the electrical engineers at Glasgow have been using it for a couple of months now and it is freely available for use. "gqsub was only in the ideas stage a few months ago. The current prototype, implemented over the summer, provides enough functionality for those users who find the transition to the Grid daunting. It's a great example of how to recognise a problem and implement a technical solution to the benefit of everyone in EGEE in a short period of time. Congratulations Stuart!" said Tony Doyle, GridPP Technical Director.
Physics 2 Prizewinners (2008-09)
(September 2009) A new academic prize was introduced in the Physics 2 class last year, namely "Most Improved" students. The prize fund is provided by Freescale Semiconductor and takes the form of £300 of book-tokens split between those 2 or 3 students showing most marked academic improvement from Physics 1 to Physics 2.
In 2008-09 there were two students sharing the prize fund: Stacey Connan and Rebecca Wright. The prizes were presented by Derek Beattie from Freescale Semiconductor during the 2009-10 Physics 3 "Skills Revolution" class.
Pictured (l to r): Stacey Connan, Morag Casey (P2 Class Head), Rebecca Wright, Derek Beattie (Freescale Semiconductor).
(September 2009) Barry Jack, Jonathan Leach a research student and post-doc along with their co-workers in the Optics Group, writing in Physical Review Letters have reported a new form of Ghost Imaging. The work has just been highlighted by Nature Physics.
Ghost imaging uses twin light beams, one which strikes the objects whilst the other hits the camera. Neither beam alone gives an image, but combing data from the two beams does.
This behaviour is indeed "spooky" but whether it is quantum or not has been the subject of long debate. The breakthrough of this current work is that including a hologram in front of the camera enhances the edges of the resulting image in a way that can only be explained by quantum mechanics.
The wider team is an example of the SUPA collaboration with researchers in Strathclyde and Heriot Watt, itself in collaboration with colleagues in Austria and the USA.
How deep are Sunspots?
A collage of images of a group of Sumspots taken over a 7 day period
(August 2009) 1st year PhD student Fraser Watson has led a study which uses 21st century solar observations and image processing to solve an 18th century sunspot puzzle - how deep are sunpots?. In 1769, Professor Alexander Wilson, the first holder of the Regius Chair of Astronomy in Glasgow University, discovered that sunpots have a ‘dished’ appearance as they approach the limb of the Sun (i.e. high solar longitudes). This occurs because differences in the plasma inside and outside the spot lead to the optical surface of the Sun, i.e. the place where the plasma becomes optically thick to visible radiation, being lower down inside sunspots compared to outside. But how much lower? Because the dark interior of a sunspot is recessed compared to the surrounding photosphere, it is partly occluded at high longitudes making the spot more difficult to detect. By examining the longitude distributions of more than 25,000 sunspots automatically detected in images from the Michelson Doppler Imager instrument on the SOHO satellite, and comparing with Monte-Carlo modeling of spot geometry and evolution, Fraser and co-workers were able to pin down the ‘depth’ of sunspots to around 1,000 km below the rest of the surface. This value can now be used as a 'ground truth' comparison in complex models of sunspot density, temperature and magnetic field.
The work developed from a Glasgow-Strathclyde ‘Synergy’ project, and has appeared in the journal Solar Physics.
First Year Postgraduate Wins Poster Prize
Dr Tim Hender, the head of Theory and Modelling at Culham, presenting Euan Bennet with his prize (photo supplied courtesy of UKAEA Culham Science Centre).
(July 2009) Euan Bennet, a first year University Scholarship-funded PhD student in the Astronomy and Astrophysics group, has won top prize in the annual poster competition at the 46th Culham Plasma Physics and Fusion Summer School. This was an international meeting of research students held at the UKAEA Culham Science Centre from 6th - 17th July 2009. His poster presented his work on the acceleration of charged particles by magnetic collapse during cosmological recombination.
In the currently accepted cosmological model, when the Universe was about 400000 years old all the baryonic matter in it began to recombine from a fully-ionised plasma to a neutral gas. Euan's poster showed justification of the need to formulate a fully electromagnetic model of this recombining plasma, along with results showing that the early Universe could have been seeded with energetic electrons, potentially influencing the formation of large scale structure.
Physics 1 Teaching Team scoop Teaching Excellence award
The Physics 1 Teaching Team: (l-r) Dr Peter Sneddon, Dr Harry Ward, Dr Stephen McVities, Dr Morag Casey and Dr Eric Yao. Dr Chris Parkes and Mr Mark Kille were unable to attend on the day.
(July 2009) A group of staff from the Dept of Physics and Astronomy are celebrating their success in the Glasgow University Teaching Excellence Awards 2008-09. The group received the award at the 2009 summer graduation on July 2nd, in recognition of their work introducing a range of innovative teaching methods to the Level 1 Physics class. Led by Dr Stephen McVitie, who is Physics 1 Class Head, the Physics 1 Teaching Team were commended by the judging panel for the "very high quality" of their work, and the "positive impact that this work has had on student experience and attainment".
The innovations pioneered by the Level 1 Teaching Team include: a thorough re-development of the Physics 1 Laboratory, which now features much more open-ended enquiry; the introduction of "Mastering Physics" - dedicated course software which assists students with self-directed learning; the appointment of a Director of Learning Support to foster better student engagement in learning; the introduction of Physics 1 continuous assessment workshops which provide vital feedback to students and staff on areas of learning difficulty.
The award was warmly welcomed by Dr Martin Hendry, Director of Learning and Teaching for the Dept of Physics and Astronomy. "The Team has transformed the teaching atmosphere within the Physics 1 class" he said, "and their excellent work has been crowned by enhanced success in our examinations, and improved retention within the Department".
The members of the Teaching Team are: Dr Stephen McVitie, Dr Morag Casey, Mr Mark Kille, Dr Chris Parkes, Dr Peter Sneddon, Dr Harry Ward and Dr Eric Yao.
Young Medal and Prize awarded to Prof Padgett and Prof Les Allen
Schematic diagram of the orbital angular momentum of light
(July 2009) In recognition of their pioneering work on optical angular momentum Miles Padgett and Les Allen have been jointly awarded the Young Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics
Although mathematically embedded in Maxwell’s equations, it is only recently, thanks to the seminal work of Allen and Padgett that researchers have recognised and taken advantage of the full properties of light’s angular momentum.
In the 1930s Beth showed that light carried spin angular momentum, but it was not until 1992 that light’s orbital angular momentum was elucidated by Allen and co-workers. Since then Allen and Padgett have pioneered both theoretical and experimental approaches to investigate virtually all aspects of light’s orbital angular momentum.
They succeeded in converting optical tweezers into optical spanners, using light to rotate microscopic objects; this showed the mechanical equivalence of light’s spin and orbital angular momentum and has inspired much work in optical manipulation. Earlier there had been a study of this light’s interaction with atoms. Working together, they recognised the role that light’s orbital angular momentum plays in harmonic generation; a precursor to high-dimensional quantum entanglement. The phenomenology of orbital angular momentum encompasses geometric phases, rotational Doppler shifts, angular uncertainly relationships and other topological features. It has been demonstrated that spin, orbital and total angular momentum can be measured for single photons and the increased data capacity utilised in a free-space optical link
Mighty Mouse Rules the Stars!
A picture of the new constellation
Star prize for young designer of Scotland’s New Constellation to be awarded by Poet Laureate Liz Lochead
(June 2009) Scotland’s New Constellation for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 was chosen last week. "Wee Sleekit Beastie" by Laura Doliczny, from Dalmeny Primary School was selected as the winning design. The giant mouse will be projected digitally in the planetarium dome and will cover the whole sky. The runner up was Laura Runciman and 3rd Prize-winners were Abdur Rehman Desai, Glendale Primary School, and Ruby Partridge, Age 12, Broadford Primary. School designs will also be shown.
Press are warmly invited to attend the ceremony, which will take place under the stars of Scotland’s finest Planetarium at the Glasgow Science centre June 30th at 2pm. The Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Prof. John Brown of the University of Glasgow, will give a short introduction to the project and Liz Lochead will recite her poem ‘From a Mouse’.
Astronomy and Astrophysics academics lead International Teams
Multi band image of a solar flare
(June 2009) Two members of the Astronomy and Astrophysics group have been funded by the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern to lead International Teams. ISSI is an advanced study institute, hosting scientists from all over the world in a multi- and interdisciplinary setting. ISSI's main function is to develop a deeper understanding of results from space missions, ground-based observations, and laboratory experiments through multidisciplinary research, and to identify the most exciting new horizons in space science. ISSI science covers a wide spectrum from the physics of the solar system and planetary sciences to astrophysics and cosmology, and from Earth sciences to astrobiology.
Dr Lyndsay Fletcher is leading a new project on the physics of the solar chromosphere during solar flares. The solar chromosphere, between the visible photosphere and tenuous corona, is the most complex and dynamic part of the solar atmosphere, and as the primary source of radiation during solar flares it is the chromosphere (seen in red in the multi-band image on the right) that holds the observational key to the flare problem. The new international team of 10 will harness advanced computational techniques and exquisite new observations to study the complex problems of the flare chromosphere.
Prominences on the sun
Dr Nicolas Labrosse's project is on solar prominences. A solar prominence is a cloud of solar gas held above the Sun's surface by the Sun's magnetic field, and is one of the most spectacular solar sights. Several prominences can be seen on the image, including a huge erupting twisted structure. The Team consists of 11 members from Scotland, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Spain, and the USA. Their research interests combine data analysis and interpretation, spectro-polarimetry, radiative transfer modelling, and modelling of the magnetic field and plasma. The outcome of the proposed research is a better understanding of the formation processes of solar prominences and of the physical conditions necessary for the stability of quiescent prominences.
The teams will hold their meetings at ISSI in Bern, Switzerland, over the next two years, and present their results in scientific publications and at conferences.
Particle Physics Masterclass
A simulated event at ATLAS
(June 2009) On 11 June 2009 more than a hundred 5th year school pupils visited the Particle Physics group for the day and experienced some of the excitement of research in a fast-moving field. Talks and hands-on sessions in particle detection and analysis of real collider data led by experts working at CERN and Fermilab provided an introduction to new aspects of physics, as well as the opportunity to spend a day inside a university and meet current students.
Professor Hough gives prize lecture
Prof. Jim Hough
(June 2009) On Monday 15th June, Professor Jim Hough gave the Gunning Victoria Jubilee Prize Lecture at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, on 'Ripples from the Dark Side of the Universe – the Search for Gravitational Waves'.
This Prize is awarded every 4 years (and to a physicist only once every 12 years) and has a long and distinguished history, with the first recipient being another notable Glasgow Physicist - Lord Kelvin - in 1887.
Jim followed Kelvin's example by giving a demonstration lecture assisted by three of the graduate students from the Institute for Gravitational Research.
Glasgow PhD Student wins prize for first glimpse of LHC beam
First particles of 2009 observed in the LHCb VELO detector
(June 2009) Mr Marco Gersabeck, a Scottish University Physics Alliance (SUPA) PhD student at the University of Glasgow has been awarded the 2009 John G Rutherglen Prize. Mr Gersabeck won the prize for his work on the LHCb experiment, including being part of the Glasgow University team that reconstructed the first tracks at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) last August. The LHC is the new 27km long particle physics accelerator near Geneva.
Mr Gersabeck said “I’m delighted to be awarded this prize, and I’m looking forward to analysing the first data from the LHC collider later this year.” Prof. Tony Doyle chair of the panel of judges said “Marco is a worthy winner of the prize, he has made important contributions to the LHCb experiment that may ultimately contribute to the discovery of new physics at the LHC”.
The Glasgow team is also celebrating repeating their feat by seeing the first LHC beam of 2009. In preparation for the start of the Large Hadron Collider in 2009, the Glasgow LHCb team (with their collaborators from Liverpool, Amsterdam and CERN) reconstructed over 60,000 tracks on the 6th and 7th June. Dr Silvia Borghi, the researcher at the University of Glasgow who leads the alignment of the LHCb Vertex Locator, will be reporting the first results at a meeting on 18th June. Dr Borghi said “I’ve managed to align the detector to an accuracy of 10 millionths of a metre using the new tracks”.
Dr Chris Parkes, the UK VELO Project Leader and Mr Gersabeck’s supervisor said “This prize and these great results are a testament to the hard work that has been put in by all the scientists in the team. This bodes well for the future operation of the experiment to explore the differences in behaviour of matter and anti-matter. ”
UK scientists from the Universities of Glasgow and Liverpool have a major involvement with the LHCb Vertex Locator. The individual modules were designed and assembled in the UK. The reconstruction software used to observe these tracks was written by UK scientists. Nikhef provided the mechanics, cooling and vacuum system. Other collaborators are University of Manchester, University of Warwick, University of Oxford, EPFL Lausanne, CERN, Syracuse University, Moscow State University, University College Dublin.
Ministerial visit to the Institute for Gravitational Research
(June 2009) The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop visited the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research on Tuesday 16 June.
University Principal Sir Muir Russell welcomed the minister to the Kelvin Building and delivered a brief introduction to the work of the Institute. Fiona Hyslop met Professor John Chapman, Dean of Department of Physics and Astronomy, and leading scientists working in gravitational wave detection Professors Jim Hough and Sheila Rowan before a tour of the new and refurbished laboratory in the building.
Professor Sheila Rowan said: “We are delighted that this new laboratory, supported by Scottish Funding Council investment, will underpin both our core research and help us work more closely with Scottish industry.”
Gravitational waves - waves in the curvature of space-time generated by the motion of massive objects, such as two stars or two black holes orbiting each other - are a prediction of General Relativity. The world renowned Institute for Gravitational Research at Glasgow University is developing detectors and signal analysis methods to search for gravitational waves from astrophysical sources.
The detection and study of gravitational radiation is of great scientific importance. It should reveal new information about a variety of astrophysical systems including supernova explosions, black hole formation and pulsars. It is also possible that unexpected discoveries will be made through the research, in much the same way as has occurred in radio and x-ray astronomy. The group in Glasgow has been involved in both experimental development and data analysis for around 37 years.
Fiona Hyslop has been instrumental to the Scottish Government’s strategic framework for science which aims to maintain and enhance Scotland’s world-class scientific achievement and make the country a powerhouse of technology, innovation and enterprise. Maintaining a strong science base in Scotland is vital and Ms Hyslop is committed to developing individuals, scientific research, economic and business demand, international profile and connections in Scotland and government.
Highly rated in University Guides
(June 2009) The Department of Physics and Astronomy has been rated second in the UK by the Times Good University Guide for a University education in Physics and Astronomy; this is second only to Cambridge. The department has also been rated fourth in the UK by the Complete University Guide (published in association with The Independent). These ratings highlight the excellent job performed by our staff in delivering a top quality education in Physics and Astronomy to our students.
Prof. Padgett invited to lecture at ICTP
(June 2009) Prof Padgett gives lectures on Optofluidics at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP). Founded in 1964 by the Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam, the Centre in Trieste operates under a tripartite agreement among the Italian Government and two United Nations Agencies, UNESCO and IAEA. Its mission is to foster advanced studies and research, especially in developing countries. While the name of the Centre reflects its beginnings, its activities today encompass most areas of physical sciences including applications.
Glasgow Optics plays host to 70 European Scientists
(May 2009) Jonathan Leach, a research assistant in the Optics group, was host to 70 scientist from across Europe. Following a visit to our research laboratories and as part of a European funded Cost network, he organised a three-day workshop on the shores of Loch Ard near Aberfoyle. For many it was their first visit to Scotland but, given the success of the event, for many will not their last. In the short term, a number of the participants plan to return to our laboratories, again funded by the EU, to jointly pursue various research ideas that were inspired by Scotland's wonderful scenery.
Astronomy and Astrophysics PhD student wins National Prize
(April 2009) Fraser Watson, a first year STFC-funded PhD student in the Astronomy and Astrophysics group, has won top prize in the annual Royal Astronomical Society postgraduate poster competition for his poster on probing the structure of sunspots. The prize was awarded at the Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting at the University of Hertfordshire, 20-23 April 2009.
240 years ago Alexander Wilson, the first Chair of Astronomy at Glasgow, reported what is now known as the Wilson effect. This is the observation that sunspots close to the edges of the Sun have a 'dished' appearance, as if the spot is an indentation with the darkest part of the spot at the bottom of the dish. Fraser's poster described a new way of measuring the depth of this indentation, knowledge of which is critical for calibrating theoretical models of sunspot structure. This work stemmed also from Fraser's Synergy-funded summer project between Physics and Astronomy in Glasgow, and the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering in Strathclyde University.
Weaving a Tangled Web
(April 2009) Kevin O'Holleran, a graduate student in the Optics group, writing in Physical Review Letters has just reported on the underlying Topology of Light's Darkness. When light is scattered from a rough surface it forms a complicated field which is threaded by lines of complete darkness. These lines can form loops and links similar to those found in, vortex lines within a superfluid, and cosmic-scale tendrils of matter in the evolving universe, or even headphone wires.
The article is being featured by the American Physical Society in their Spotlight on Excellent Research. This was Kevin's final work as part of his PhD, prior to joining ThinkTank Maths – a technology consultancy working with UK industry and finance.
RAE 2008 Success for Physics and Astronomy
The Physics and Astronomy Department achieved an excellent performance in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. 60% of its research outputs were judged to be of international standard (world leading 4* or internationally excellent 3*). In the UK league tables it came equal 7th out of the 42 institutions submitting data. This performance improves on the equivalent performance in RAE 2001, and confirms our strong international reputation.
Combining our results with those of the other five Scottish physics departments that make up the research pool known as The Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, shows that, by working together, Scottish physics is developing an outstanding profile within the UK.
Masters of Physics
(April 2009) Students in the Physics 1 class were rewarded with prizes for excellent performance in Mastering Physics at a presentation by a representative from Pearson publishing. Mastering Physics is an online interactive homework resource which is available with the Physics 1 textbook University Physics by Young and Freedman. In the Physics 1 class weekly exercises were set throughout semesters 1 and 2 as part of formative assessment for this course. The textbook publishers Pearson kindly donated a number of prizes which were awarded for overall best perfomance (3x £50 book vouchers) and best improvement shown between semesters 1 and 2 (3x bottles of champagne).
Course lecturers are responsible for setting questions relevant to material covered in the lectures and student feedback has indicated they have found this on-line resource to be very helpful in reinforcing physics concepts.
Debbie Welch from Pearson publishing presented the prizes to the students at the end of semester 2.
The prize winners were:
- Overall: Callum Cameron, Till Handel, Mark Calvert
- Improver: Stephanie Mann, Christopher Moeller, Euan Wheatly
Pictured: Debbie Welch (Pearson publishing), Euan Wheatly, Christoffer Moeller, Mark Calvert, Stephanie Mann, Stephen McVitie (P1 Class Head), seated Till Handel.
Stanford-Scotland Photonics Innovation Collaboration
(February 2009) Scientists in the Institute for Gravitational Research have won major funding in a major venture between universities in Scotland and California.
The £1.6 million 'Science Bridges project' funded by Research Councils UK (RCUK) is to allow the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde, St Andrews and Heriot-Watt, to work together with Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), to capitalise on leading research in the photonics sector, in fields including life
sciences and renewable energy, and the commercial opportunities the research offers.
The project will give young researchers the opportunity to experience working in laboratories in California. It will also enable businesses in the US and the UK to share ideas and expertise with academics in both countries.
For more information see here.
Optics on the BBC World Service "Discovery"
(January 2009) Richard Bowman, a graduate student in the Optics group, was interviewed on the BBC World Service talking about the group's work in holographic tweezers. Holographic tweezers use computer controlled holograms to shape light beams so that they can trap and move microscopic objects like individual cells. Richard's work gives the user a real feel for the microscopic world, where the effects of Brownian motion and other bio forces are all felt by hand.