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Physics and Astronomy Colloquia
Speaker: Professor Isabelle Ledoux-Rak ( Laboratoire de Photonique Quantique et Moléculaire, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan, France)
2015 Holweck Prize Lecture
Joint Physics/Chemistry Colloquium
The emergence of molecular photonics at the cross-roads of physics, chemistry and device engineering has being triggered by increasing demand in various fields such as high bitrate telecommunications, sensors, and bio-imaging. The wealth of molecular structures and the exploitation of their functional and structural flexibility opens-up new, exciting horizons for this area of research. Designing highly efficient molecules with optimised photonic properties remains a major challenge after 50 years of continuous development, based on fruitful and interdisciplinary cooperation between chemists and physicists.
In this lecture, the principles of molecular engineering for quadratic nonlinear optics will be discussed, with an emphasis on metal complexes and lanthanide derivatives, on nonlinear optical characterization methods. This will be followed by a review of intermolecular interactions and various orientation methods, in order to bridge the gap between molecules to materials, towards a wide range of applications. Finally, perspectives will be provided on molecular photonics towards device–rel.
On: September 16, 2015 From: 5:15 pm To: 6:30 pm
Speaker: Prof James F Scott ( University of St Andrews)
Multiferroics are crystals that simultaneously exhibit ferromagnetism and ferroelectricity (and usually ferroelasticity, which is hysteretic stress/strain). In some cases the ferromagnetism is actually created by the ferroelectricity, by causing the spins to cant [via Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya anisotropic exchange: P.(L x M)]. These materials have become very popular in part due to the interesting new physics, previously neglected because the effects require very low crystal symmetry, and because they offer the promise of new kinds of memory devices, including voltage-tunable magnetic tunnel junctions and four-state memories (+P,+M; +P,-M; -P,+M; -P,-M) which would be vastly superior to the usual binary (0,1) Boolean algebra. At St. Andrews I am experimentally studying GaFeO3 and Pb[Fe(1/2)Ta(1/2)]y[Ti(1/2)Zr(1/2)(1-y)]O3.
On: September 25, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Professor Caroline Terquem ( University of Oxford)
As of today, about 2000 objects have received the label of "confirmed" extrasolar planets. Recent observations indicate that a significant number of the Jupiter-type planets with very short periods are on an orbit which is inclined with respect to the equatorial plane of their host star. This is difficult to explain in the context of planets forming in a protostellar disc assumed to lie in that plane. In this talk, I will review different mechanisms that have been proposed to account for the observed orbital inclinations. I will then focus on the case of an orbit inclined with respect to the disc, and will discuss the interaction between the planet and the disc in this context and the subsequent orbital evolution.
On: October 2, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Marc Buie ( SwRI-Boulder's Departments of Space Studies and Space Operations )
In July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto after a 9.5 year journey across the solar system. Data are still being returned from the mission and with each new picture and measurement the wonderful complexity of this distant world continues to expand.
In this presentation, I will provide a brief review of the historical understanding of Pluto to provide a context for showing and discussion the new discoveries that have been coming out this year. Many of the things we see were predicted, such as extreme albedo contrast across the surface. Many more things are unexpected and even confounding as we work to ingest the treasure of data coming back from New Horizons.
I will also provide a brief summary of what to expect in the coming months and years from this fantastic spacecraft.
On: October 9, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Jamie Love & Lucy Robertson ( Enterprise Campus)
Hear from the Enterprise Campus team about how to turn your idea or research into a business.
This talk will be an introduction to Enterprise Campus and cover the support, advice and start-up funding they offer.
Lucy and Jamie will also highlight success stories from great university start-up’s such as Two Big Ears, Restored Hearing and Morphsuits.
On: October 16, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Professor Ineke De Moortal ( School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews)
In this talk, I will give an overview of recently observed transverse, propagating velocity perturbations observed in coronal loops. These ubiquitous perturbations are observed to undergo strong damping as they propagate. Using both numerical and analytical modelling, we demonstrate that these can be understood in terms of coupling of different wave modes in the inhomogeneous boundaries of the loops: we perform 3D numerical simulations of footpoint-driven transverse waves propagating in a coronal plasma with a cylindrical density structure. Mode coupling in the inhomogeneous boundary layers of the loops leads to the coupling of the transversal (kink) mode to the azimuthal (Alfvén) mode, observed as the decay of the transverse kink oscillations. Both the numerical and analytical results show that the initial damping is Gaussian in nature, before tending to linear exponential damping at large heights. In addition, recent analysis of CoMP (Coronal Multi-channel Polarimeter) Doppler shift observations of a large, off-limb, trans-equatorial loops system show that Fourier power at the apex appears to be higher in the high-frequency part of the spectrum than expected from theoretical models. We suggest that this excess high-frequency FFT power could be tentative evidence for the onset of a cascade of the low-to-mid frequency waves into (Alfv enic) turbulence.
On: October 23, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof Stephanie Wehner ( QUTech, Delft)
The laws of thermodynamics as we know them have originally been conceived to study the properties of large machines such as steam engines. Over time, statistics helped us justify these laws, where the law of large numbers allowed us to make statements about machines that indeed consist of a large number of particles. When machines become extremely small, however, not only are we unable to use such statistical methods, but quantum mechanical effects become relevant. What are the laws of thermodynamics in such regimes?
We start by establishing a second law that is valid for even the smallest quantum machines. We will then proceed to study the maximum efficiency of a heat engine, known as the Carnot efficiency. For large machines, this efficiency famously only depends on the temperatures on the heat baths we use . In contrast, we will see that at the nano scale, Carnot's law needs to be revised in the sense that more information about the bath other than its temperature is required to decide whether maximum efficiency can be achieved. In particular, we derive new fundamental limitations of the efficiency of heat engines at the nano and quantumscale that show that the Carnot efficiency can only be achieved under special circumstances, and we derive a new maximum efficiency for others. We conclude by discussing some of the many open challenges in quantum thermodynamics.
On: October 30, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Amalia Coldea ( University of Oxford)
Iron-based superconductors have attracted significant scientific interest in condensed matter physics  due their potential practical application and theoretical challenge in unifying their superconducting properties origination from a multi-band electronic system under a single overarching theory. Among the different classes of compounds, FeSe is structurally the simplest iron-based superconductor but one of the most intriguing electronically, with extreme tunability in its electronic and superconducting properties. With a superconducting transition of 9K, FeSe undergoes a structural transition around 87K but does not order magnetically at any temperature. Furthermore, it shows a strong increase of its superconducting transition temperature towards 40K under applied pressure, or by intercalating with various organic and non-organic elements between its van-der Waals layers as well as by doping its surface.
I will discuss the evolution of the electronic structure of FeSe and provide evidence that its structural transition is electronically driven. Using high-resolution ARPES data, we track the Fermi surface deformation from four-fold to two-fold symmetry across the structural transition, as a result of the dramatic splitting of bands with dxz and dyz character in the presence of strong electronic interactions . Our elastoresistance measurements on FeSe show the divergence of the nematic susceptibility, when approaching the structural transition, supporting the electronically-driven scenario for this transition . I will present the details of the multi-band Fermi surface of FeSe based on ARPES, quantum oscillations and magnetotransport data in high magnetic fields [2,3]. I will also discuss the effect of chemical pressure on FeSe, using isovalent substitution of S onto the Se site, which subtly modifies the electronic structure of FeSe and induces a suppression of the structural transition temperature using ARPES  and quantum oscillations studies.
On: November 6, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Professor Jonathan Tennyson ( University College London)
Over two thousand extrasolar planets (exoplanets) have been discovered and they appear to be ubiquitous. Attention is therefore turning to questions concerning what are their chemical and thermal composition and, ultimately, whether they might support life. Methods are now available to probe exoplanet atmospheres using the light of their host star. However most of the exoplanets detected so far are hotter than the earth. This means that understanding and characterising their atmospheres requires a detailed knowledge of how the molecules in their atmospheres absorb light over an extended temperature range. The European Research Council-funded ExoMol project aims to produce comprehensive line lists for all molecules thought to be important in the atmospheres and appropriate over an extended range of temperatures. For many systems these line lists are huge so the task can only attempted theoretically. Our method is to use high quality first principles quantum, where appropriate tuned to laboratory experimental data. Progress on this project and the related topic of obtaining high resolution exoplanet spectra will be discussed.
On: November 13, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Professor Jo Dunkley ( University of Oxford)
The Cosmic Microwave Background provides us with a wealth of information about the universe, most recently via measurements of its polarization. It allows us to probe the physics of the early universe, as well as tracing the cosmic web of dark matter through its gravitational lensing signal. I will describe the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in northern Chile, show early results from the experiment and discuss the prospects with upcoming data for testing inflation, neutrino physics, and dark energy. I will also discuss preparations for the upcoming upgrade to Advanced ACTPol, which will map the CMB polarization over half the sky at multiple wavelengths, overlapping many other large optical surveys.
On: November 20, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Ignacio Wilson-Rae ( University of York)
Recent years have witnessed an explosion of activity in the emerging field of optomechanics which aims at controlling the motional state of mechanical resonators by optical means. Optomechanical systems seem ideal for testing notions of how our macroscopic "classical world", where quantum superpositions seem to be absent, can be reconciled with quantum mechanics. However, typical schemes, based on light forces in optical cavities, are seriously limited by the smallness of the resulting interaction between single phonons and photons. In this colloquium I will discuss an alternative approach, based on the optical excitation of quantum emitters embedded in nanomechanical structures and their strong electron-phonon interactions. I will present theoretical analyses of two realisations of this concept. The first one uses excitons in suspended carbon-nanotubes to explore strong-coupling phenomena in quantum decoherence. The second one uses colour centres in nano-cantilevers to monitor phonon quantum jumps providing direct evidence of nanomechanical energy quantization.
On: November 27, 2015 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Paul van Kampen ( Dublin City University, Centre for Laser Plasma Research)
Electromagnetism is a challenging topic to teach and to learn. For example, students often find it difficult to distinguish between force and field, to understand electromagnetic induction. It is well known that many students struggle to apply mathematics in their study of physics in general and in electromagnetism in particular.
In this talk I will outline how systematic inquiry into how students learn physics (i.e., Physics Education Research) has identified common difficulties, and I will illustrate instructional materials that help students overcome them.
On: January 29, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Ruth Oulton ( University of Bristol, Centre for Quantum Photonics)
Quantum dots are semiconductor artificial atoms. They are nanoscale structures that trap single electrons and holes, and their quantized energy level structure results in atomic-like transitions and single photon emission. These quantum dots act as a solid-state interface that is useful for quantum information applications, and for the past decade, semiconductor physicists have been attempting to replicate atomic cavity quantum electrodynamics in a practical semiconductor form. One can embed quantum dot into micron-sized photonic structures to capture and control the light emission, in order to use the single photon emission in quantum communication and quantum circuits.
One of the most exciting applications of quantum dots is to use their electron spins as a quantum memory. This involves transferring spin information from an electron spin to the polarization of a photon. However, as I shall explain, the definition of “polarization” for nanophotonic structures is far more complex than for a beam of light. In fact, we find that point-like “spin” emitters couple to a photonic structure in surprising ways: unlike any phenomenon observed in bulk material, simply changing the position of an emitter or the spin direction controls completely in which direction photons propagate. Suddenly, a rich variety of behaviour has arisen in the semiconductor/photonic domain which has no equivalent in atomic cavity QED, including a fundamental difference between how a classical dipole and a quantum dipole emitter interfere with incoming light. I will finally discuss progress on achieving deterministic photon-spin interactions. In particular I will demonstrate a macroscopic spin-induced phase shift in a low Q-factor system. Thus I show that when designing photonic QD systems, it is the “beta” factor, not the cavity quality (Q) factor, that should be optimised to achieve deterministic interactions.
On: February 5, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof Christelle Monat ( École Centrale de Lyon , Lyon Institute of Nanotechnology )
The exponential growth in the amounts of data exchanged through the Internet already poses some challenges regarding the energy consumption, size, cost and speed of the associated optoelectronic equipment to route and transfer the information across the network. This calls for the development of new technologies that are intrinsically fast and more energy efficient. A possible solution is to route and manage these high speed data directly in the optical domain, within devices that are meant to be compact and integrated onto a single platform, for instance by exploiting the optical nonlinear properties of the underlying material. In this context, integrated nonlinear optics is advantageous, provided that the material platform yields a high nonlinear response and is CMOS compatible to leverage the huge investment of the microelectronics industry. While SOI has now become extremely mature for passively transferring light information on a chip at Telecom wavelengths with very low loss, its nonlinear response is compromised by a high nonlinear absorption at telecom wavelengths, which limits certain applications (parametric amplification for instance) and tends to restrict the device operation speed (via the generation of free carriers, for instance). I will present here the use of alternative material platforms such as hydrogenated amorphous silicon, in collaboration with CEA-Leti, which provides a better nonlinear performance than crystalline silicon, while maintaining the compatibility with CMOS fabrication technologies. We will discuss the potentialities offered by combining this material with structures providing a tight confinement of light (like photonic crystals) and dispersion engineering techniques to move beyond silicon photonics and perform all-optical signal processing on-chip at Telecom wavelengths.
Beside telecommunication applications, the mid-IR range (between 2 and 5um) represents a spectral window of huge interest for biophotonic and sensing applications, due to the strong signature of biochemical compounds in this range. The associated technology is yet extremely power hungry and very expensive. Here again, the development of integrated optics and the migration of some concepts developed in the near-IR to the mid-IR are required to lead to the widespread use of this technology. One key challenge is the realization of integrated broadband light sources on chip covering a wide spectral window within a single device. We will discuss here the potential of the SiGe alloys, which provide a CMOS compatible platform, with linear and nonlinear properties that have been so far unexplored in the mid-IR
On: February 12, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Natalia Korolkova ( University of St Andrews)
In this talk I describe the nature of non-classical correlation beyond entanglement. Quantum discord is introduced as a measure of such quantum correlations and compared to some other measures. The role of system-environment coupling in dynamics of these correlations and some operational interpretations of discord are discussed, in particular activation of correlations into entanglement. The quantum nature of correlations is illustrated with an example of bright light beams. In this context, some illuminating quantum information protocols based on quantum properties of optical modes are briefly described.
On: February 19, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof Andrew Daley ( University of Strathclyde, Quantum Optics and Quantum Many-body Systems)
Over the course of the last two decades, experiments with ultracold atoms and molecules have developed to a level where we have strongly interacting quantum gases that are controllable and measurable on a single-particle level. This now allows us to engineer a range of fundamental models from solid state physics in experiments, and explore their properties cleanly on a microscopic level.
Beyond textbook demonstrations of equilibrium and single-particle properties (including insulating phases, magnetic superexchange, and Bloch oscillations), this now enables us to explore fundamental aspects of non-equilibrium dynamics in quantum many-particle systems. These range from from the approach of systems to equilibrium, and thermalisation in statistical mechanics, to the influence of the environment and decoherence in open many-body quantum systems.
I will give an overview of recent developments in these areas, and touch on the recent measurement of many-body entanglement with ultracold atoms in optical lattices.
On: February 26, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof Kevin France ( University of Colorado, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences)
The composition and spatial distribution of molecular gas in the inner few AU of young (< 10 Myr) circumstellar disks are important components to our understanding of the formation of planetary systems. In the first part of this talk, I will discuss the current, observationally-based picture of protoplanetary gas disks at r < 10 AU. I will review the most widely used spectral diagnostics of the inner disk, and highlight recent observations of H2 and CO made by the Hubble Space Telescope. I will describe how high-resolution spectroscopy is being used to constrain the composition, distribution, and evolution of molecular gas in the inner disk at spatial scales too small to resolve with current imaging instruments/facilities.
In the second part of this talk, I will discuss how the spectral and temporal behavior of exoplanet host stars is a critical input to models of the chemistry and evolution of planetary atmospheres. I will present results from a Hubble Treasury program that is currently underway to characterize the panchromatic (X-ray through mid-IR) radiation environments around low-mass host stars for the first time. We find that all exoplanet host stars observed to date exhibit significant levels of UV/X-ray activity, and that strong flares are common, even on “optically inactive” M dwarfs hosting planetary systems. I will briefly discuss the use of these data in atmospheric models of rocky planets around cool stars, including the predicted abiotic production of O2 and O3 – a cautionary tale for the interpretation of “biomarker” gases when they are detected in the coming decades.
On: March 4, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Gaitee Hussain ( ESO)
Solar-type stars display signs of magnetic activity at all wavelengths, from energetic X-ray and UV flares to variability in photometric light curves caused by large cool spots. Several factors determine the magnetic activity level observed in all of these diagnostics; the key ones being the stellar rotation rate and the internal structure of the star. In the past two decades advances in instrumentation have facilitated the direct detection of surface magnetic fields in cool stars. Combined with powerful techniques based on medical imaging principles we can actually reconstruct the detailed surface magnetic field maps on stars covering a range of evolutionary states.
Stellar magnetic fields play a particularly important role in young stars that are only a few million years old - a key stage in a young planetary system, as this is when gas giant planets form around their host stars. I will present the latest results from our surveys of young stars, showing how the surface magnetic field properties depend on their evolutionary stages. I will also show how our detailed surface maps can be used to build realistic models of the “weather” around stars that host planetary systems, and therefore better understand the environments around which planets form and evolve.
On: March 11, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr D A Rogatkin ( Moscow Regional Research and Clinical Institute "MONIKI")
Modern semiconductor lasers as well as LEDs are widely used in medicine today. One of the biggest areas of their application are noninvasive (in vivo, in situ) diagnostics, based on principles of spectrophotometry and laser spectral analysis, and a phototherapy. This presentation is a review of selected studies in this field carried out in one of the oldest and largest Russian medical research and practical center – Moscow Regional Research and Clinical Institute (MONIKI) named after M. F. Vladimirskiy. All studies were aimed at the development and application of combined noninvasive spectrophotometry diagnostic technique in real clinical practice and in different fields of medicine, in phototherapy, for example. The specially devised multifunctional laser diagnostic system “LAKK-M” was used as a noninvasive diagnostic tool in the majority of these studies, allowing a combination of several diagnostic methods such as laser fluorescence spectroscopy, laser Doppler flowmetry, tissue reflectance oximetry, etc. in a single experiment. It allows for physicians a complex examination of the so-called blood microcirculation system - one of the primary object, which is affected in tissues at a phototherapy. All these diagnostic methods, for example, didn’t confirm the stimulation effect on the blood microcirculation in skin or mucosa at a Low Level Laser Irradiation (LLLI) with the power density below 50 mW/cm2 and irradiation time up to 5-6 minutes. Above this threshold the heating on 0,8…1 0C of tissue in the field of irradiation and the corresponding synchronous increase of all parameters of microhemodynamics were observed. The report also discusses the problems and prospects of development of researches on the blood microcirculation with the use of the non-invasive spectrophotometry.
On: April 1, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof Cait MacPhee ( University of Edinburgh, Biomolecular Physics)
Janus particles are micro- or nano-scale particles whose surfaces have two or more distinct physical properties. Such asymmetry results in interesting self-assembly properties, but homogeneous Janus particles can be difficult to synthesize. The protein BslA (Bacterial Surface Layer A) is a small (~4 nm) protein produced by the bacterium acillus subtilis that has a hydrophilic ‘body’ to which is appended a surface-exposed hydrophobic ‘cap’. These properties allow the ellipsoidal protein to partition to oil- and air-water interfaces where it self-assembles to form a robust, elastic, and highly hydrophobic film. We have investigated the behaviour of BslA using a combination of biophysical experiments and multiscale simulations. I will describe how BslA provides an intriguing example of a colloidal particle with switchable, environmentally-responsive physical features that have potential applications in nanoscale self-assembly.
On: April 8, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof Tim Harries ( University of Exeter)
Massive stars (those greater than 20 solar masses) are hugely important in galactic ecology, enriching them chemically and providing strong feedback effects via radiation, stellar winds and supernovae. However, the process by which massive stars form is less well understood than that of lower-mass stars, both observationally, because massive protostars are rare and difficult to observe, and theoretically because radiation feedback has a much stronger influence on the dynamics than it does for solar-mass objects.
I present new radiation-hydrodynamical (RHD) simulations of massive star formation that treat the radiation feedback with unprecedented microphysical detail. The simulations following the collapse of a molecular cloud into a protostar with a circumstellar disc and a bipolar outflow. I show that by computing synthetic observables directly from the RHD models it is possible to
test the simulations against a variety of diagnostics, from molecular lines to interferometry.
On: April 15, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Will Hossack ( TBC)
The Kaleidoscope was one of the must have toys of the 1800s. Invented 200 years ago by the Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster, Principal of St Andrews from 1837-59, this fascinating gadget is still as popular today. Join us to hear about the life and work of Sir Brewster, one of the founding figures in physics in the mid nineteenth century, and find out how his discoveries are still relevant today.
On: April 15, 2016 From: 5:45 pm To: 7:00 pm
Speaker: Prof Doug Lin ( University of California, Santa Cruz and Carnegie Centenary Professor, University of St Andrews)
In conjunction with Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, we are pleased to host:
Planetary astrophysics is the most rapidly advancing field in the world-wide astronomical community today. Planetary census suggests that planets, especially those similar to the Earth, are prevalent around nearby stars. The game-changing influx of data from exoplanet surveys and characterization of protostellar disks have revitalized intense efforts to understand the formation and evolution of planets including those in the Solar System and to extrapolate the ubiquity of habitable planets and the possibility of finding tell-tale signs of life on them. Emerging comparative planetology shows evidences that planets' diverse structure and kinematic properties are likely to be the byproducts of both the environment of their cradles and the long-term evolution of these complex dynamical systems. I will describe some recent paradigm shifts in the theory of planet formation, especially on the role of planet migration in their evolving natal disks, their interaction with each other and with their host stars. I will also discuss their potential implications on the origin and proliferation of life elsewhere in the Universe.
On: April 21, 2016 From: 5:15 pm To: 6:30 pm
Speaker: Prof Doug Lin ( University of Santa Cruz)
Advanced LIGO event GW150914 has been attributed to the coalescence of two black holes with masses more than double that of most known stellar black holes. Formation of such stellar black holes directly through supernova explosions requires massive, metal-deficient progenitors. This requirement and their nearly equal masses may not be compatible with its occurrence in the local Universe. I consider an alternative possibility which may lead to the robust production of binary black holes with masses up to a hundred solar masses in the proximity of active galactic nuclei (AGN's). I will describe some relevant mechanisms which are analogous to the astrophysics of planet formation. I will discuss the implications of this scenario in the context of structure and evolution of AGN disks including the cause of their super solar metallicity, duty cycle of their active phase, and the rapid growth of their central massive black holes.
On: April 22, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof Richard Ellis ( European Southern Observatory, University Colled London and Carnegie Centenary Professor, University of Edinburgh)
In conjunction with Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, we are pleased to host:
The first billion years after the Big Bang can be regarded as the final observational frontier in assembling a coherent picture of cosmic history. During this period early stars and galaxies formed and the Universe became bathed in ultraviolet light for the first time. Sometime during this era the hydrogen inbetween galaxies transformed from a neutral gas to one that was ionised into its protons and electrons. How and when did this `cosmic reionisation’ occur and were early star-forming galaxies the primary agents? Deep exposures with the Hubble Space Telescope have provided the primary evidence that star-forming galaxies were present during the relevant period. Detailed spectroscopy of these galaxies is now required to address these important questions. I will review the rapid progress being made in this area with current facilities, and the prospects with upcoming ones, including the James Webb Space Telescope and extremely large ground-based telescopes now under construction.
On: May 20, 2016 From: 5:15 pm To: 6:30 pm
Speaker: Professor J.C. Séamus Davis ( School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews)
Everything around us, everything each of us has ever
experienced, and virtually everything underpinning our technological society
and economy is governed by quantum mechanics. Yet this most fundamental
physical theory of nature often feels as if it is a set of somewhat eerie and
counterintuitive ideas of no direct relevance to our lives. Why is this? One
reason is that we cannot perceive the strangeness (and astonishing beauty) of
the quantum mechanical phenomena all around us by using our own senses.
In this lecture I will describe the recent development of
techniques that allow us to image electronic quantum phenomena directly at the
atomic scale. As examples, we will visually explore the previously unseen and
very beautiful forms of quantum matter making up electronic liquid crystals and
high temperature superconductors and find that they are closely related. I will
discuss the implications for fundamental physics research and also for advanced
materials and new technologies, arising from quantum matter visualization.
On: June 8, 2016 From: 6:00 pm To: 7:00 pm
Speaker: Prof John Dudley ( University of Franche-Comté)
The International Year of Light which has now concluded
celebrated the many ways in which photonics technologies can impact on our
daily lives. As well as representing a number of key milestones in
the history of science dating back at least 1000 years, the year 2015 also saw
50 years since the first discovery of the optical soliton, a discovery that
opened up a new field of nonlinear optics which has had dramatic impact on many
areas of science and technology. This talk will discuss some
unappreciated aspects of research in nonlinear optics and soliton science, from
its first historical development, to the birth of optical fibre communications,
the development of femtosecond lasers and the latest research in the field
today using ultrafast real time measurements to provide new insights into the
emergence of extreme waves on the ocean. The talk will be suitable for a
On: June 21, 2016 From: 3:00 pm To: 4:00 pm
Speaker: Dirk Froebrich ( University of Kent)
After a brief introduction to Star Formation, the talk
will introduce the UKIRT Widefield Infrared Survey for H2 (UWISH2). I will
present our data and the latest results from our investigations of jets and
outflows from young stars identified in UWISH2. If there is time, I will
conclude with some results of our citizen science project to monitor Young
Stellar Objects in nearby young clusters.
On: September 23, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Inga Kamp ( University of Groningen)
The disks around young stars, protoplanetary disks, are
thought to be the birthplaces of planetary systems such as our own.
Spitzer, Herschel and ground-based observations showed in
several cases the existence of water in such disks around young stars and JWST
will dig even deeper from 2018 on. On the other hand, Solar System exploration
and observations of comets allow us to study specific processes in much more
detail compared to protoplanetary disk research.
The combination of evidence from protoplanetary disks and
our own Solar System is inspiring the discussion of how much water vapour and
ice is present at early times to form gas giant planets, water worlds, but also
at later times to deliver the Earth oceans and eventually lead to the emergence
of life. I will discuss our current understanding of the chemistry in
proptoplanetary disks, the water vapour and ice reservoirs and potential mixing
processes and relate this to evidence collected within our own Solar System.
On: September 30, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Tom Brown ( University of St Andrews)
the sharp eyed of you will have noticed I was absent from the department from
January to April. During this time I was taking part in the K-Axis survey
voyage of the Eastern Antarctic. One of the experiments on board was a St
Andrews developed Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) system which was
undergoing a trial field deployment. We used the system to provide a new
range of images of fish and zoo plankton which I will discuss in the talk.
I’ll also describe what happens when your ship runs aground in one of the
remotest places on Earth, how you get rescued from the Antarctic continent and
still get back in time to complete your second semester teaching!
On: October 7, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: J. Marty Gregg ( Queen's Univeristy Belfast)
transition from paraelectric to ferroelectric is characterised by the
spontaneous formation of electrical dipoles, which align parallel to each other
on a local scale. Long-range dipole alignment, however, is generally energetically
costly and so microstructures tend to form such that a number of differently
oriented polar regions, known as domains, coexist. Domain microstructures can
be complex, but, provided they are not primarily the result of kinetics, they can
be understood through consideration of equilibrium energetics. The first part
of this talk will attempt to convey the rich variety of domain microstructures
that can form in single crystal ferroelectric nanoshapes (see figure 1 below)
and the thermodynamics associated with their existence.
On: October 14, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Judith Driscoll ( University of Cambridge)
Since the discovery of high temperature superconductivity
in perovskite oxides in 1986, the unearthing of a huge range of physical
phenomena in transition metal oxides (TMOs) has been nothing short of
remarkable, e.g. new magnetics, ferroelectrics, multiferroics, semiconductors,
transparent conductors, calorics, plasmonics, catalysts, ionic conductors. Nearly 150,000 papers were published
on the topic ‘oxide+thin film’ in the last 10 years, not far from the number
published on graphene in this same period.
However, there are few applications of complex oxide thin films today.
The underlying reason is the lack of understanding of the materials, in terms
of their defective nature and in terms of how to engineer them to be perfect
and strained optimally. As stated in a recent perspective publication by the EU commission about emerging
applications, “we have passed from the perception that materials are in the
drawer to the realisation that materials are the bottleneck”.
Addressing the oxide
thin film bottleneck is long overdue. This talk will discuss new insight into oxide
thin films. Then solutions to the problem from the author will be presented, with
examples given of unprecedented functional property enhancements in systems
such as ferroelectrics, ferromagnetics and ionics. Examples will also be given of the author’s work
in the area of oxide superconductors which has enabled applications to take off.
On: October 28, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Ross Galloway ( Univeristy of Edinburgh)
For several decades, Physics Education Research has
provided suggestions for how introductory physics topics can be most
effectively taught. The overarching
recommendation has been for a move away from transmission-type teaching and a
greater adoption of active learning techniques.
Five years ago, we reformulated the introductory physics courses at the
University of Edinburgh into a 'flipped classroom' format, incorporating
extensive use of Peer Instruction into the whole-class 'lecture' sessions, and
with workshops to support in-depth problem solving. In this talk I will describe how the classes
are taught, present some of the quantitative and qualitative data we have
gathered on the effectiveness of the approach, and give some reflections on the
experience: what works, what doesn't work, and what we have learned from the
five years of transformed delivery.
On: November 4, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Janet Anders ( University of Exeter)
Thermodynamic laws have been key for the design of useful
everyday devices from car engines and fridges to power plants and solar cells.
Technology’s continuing miniaturisation to the nanoscale is expected to soon
enter regimes where standard thermodynamic laws do not apply. I will give an
introduction to quantum thermodynamics - the emerging research field that aims
to uncover the thermodynamic laws that govern small ensembles of systems that
follow non-equilibrium dynamics and can host quantum properties .
I will discuss a nanoscale thermodynamic experiment with heated optically
trapped nanospheres in a dilute gas . By developing a new theoretical model
that captures the non-equilibrium situation of the particles, we were able to
measure the surface temperature of the trapped spheres and observe temperature
gradients on the nanoscale. In the second part of the talk I will discuss
recent theoretical advances in defining thermodynamic work in the quantum
regime. By introducing a process that removes quantum coherences we were able
to show that work cannot only be extracted from classical non-equilibrium
systems, additional work can be extracted from quantum coherences .
 Quantum thermodynamics, S. Vinjanampathy, J. Anders, Contemporary Physics
57, 545 (2016).
 Nanoscale temperature measurements using non-equilibrium Brownian dynamics
of a levitated nanosphere, J. Millen, T. Deesuwan, P. Barker, J. Anders, Nature
Nanotechnology 9, 425 (2014).
 Coherence and measurement in quantum thermodynamics, P. Kammerlander, J.
Anders, Scientific Reports 6, 22174 (2016).
On: November 11, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Steve Balbus ( University of Oxford)
The internal rotational profile of
the Sun is now known with great accuracy. The results
initially were a great surprise. A pattern of rotation stratified on cylinders
was expected, but instead, the dominant feature in the bulk of the
convective zone was found to be isorotation surfaces on cones of (nearly)
constant latitude. At the base of the convection zone, strong radial
shear---the so-called tachocline---is present. In this talk, I will show
how these apparently surprising properties follow from a few simple
ideas, and will discuss issues of stability and predictions for
On: November 18, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Ilya Kuprov ( University of Southhampton)
shift (PCS) is an additional chemical shift caused by the presence of a rapidly
relaxing paramagnetic centre near the nucleus. PCS is well understood
theoretically and is widely employed as a source of structural restraints in
metalloproteins, where commonly occurring Ca2+, Mg2+, Mn2+ and Zn2+ binding
sites can often coordinate a lanthanide ion instead. A paramagnetic centre may
also be introduced artificially by attaching a lanthanide ligand tag to the
subject has a long-standing problem – lanthanide-containing protein tags have
significant conformational mobility. Even DOTA-M8, which uses a sterically
overcrowded – and therefore rigid – metal cage, still has a flexible linker.
The conformational mobility of lanthanide tags is visible in the distance
distributions measured by double electron resonance, and in molecular dynamics
simulations. In this situation the commonly used point paramagnetic centre
approximation for PCS is not expected to be valid, but quantum chemical calculations
are prohibitively expensive.
this talk I will describe a new method for extracting probability densities of
lanthanide tags from PCS data. The method relies on Tikhonov-regularised 3D
reconstruction and opens a new window into biomolecular structure and dynamics
because it explores a very different range of conditions from those accessible
to double electron resonance work on paramagnetic tags: a room-temperature
solution rather than a glass at cryogenic temperatures. The method is illustrated
using four different Tm3+ DOTA-M8 tagged mutants of human carbonic anhydrase
II; the results are in excellent agreement with rotamer library and DEER data.
wealth of high-quality pseudocontact shift data accumulated by the biological
magnetic resonance community over the last 30 years, and so far only processed
using point models, could now become a major source of useful information in
conformational dynamics research.
On: November 25, 2016 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Clare Grey ( University of Cambridge)
The development of light, long-lasting rechargeable batteries (and the invention of the lithium-ion battery, now 25 years ago) has been an integral part of the portable electronics revolution. This revolution has transformed the way in which we communicate and transfer and access data globally. Rechargeable batteries are now playing an increasingly important role in transport and grid applications, but the introduction of these devices comes with different sets of challenges. New technologies are being investigated, such as those using sodium and magnesium ions instead of lithium, and the flow of materials in an out of the electrochemical cell (in redox flow batteries). Importantly, fundamental science is key to producing non-incremental advances and to develop new strategies for energy storage and conversion.This talk will focus on our work on the development of methods that allow devices to be probed while they are operating (i.e., in-situ). This allows, for example, the transformations of the various cell components to be followed under realistic conditions without having to disassemble and take apart the cell. To this end, the application of new in and ex-situ Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray diffraction approaches to correlate structure and dynamics with function in lithium- and sodium-ion batteries and supercapacitors will be described. The in-situ approach allows processes to be captured, which are very difficult to detect directly by ex-situ methods. For example, we can detect side reactions involving the electrolyte and the electrode materials, sorption processes at the electrolyte-electrode interface, and processes that occur during extremely fast charging and discharging. Complementary Ex-situ investigations allow more detailed structural studies to be performed, to correlate local and long-range structure with performance.
On: January 27, 2017 From: 3:30 pm To: 4:30 pm
Speaker: Prof. Dagmar Bruss ( University of Dusseldorf)
The laws of quantum mechanics allow for quantum cryptography, i.e.the distribution of a secret random key between two parties. Whengeneralising this idea to the situation where more than two partieswant to establish a common secret key, one can use certain multipartite entangled states as a resource. In the security analysis for this multi-user scheme some intricate new features arise and will be discussed. Finally, it is shown that our protocol for multipartite quantum cryptography offers a speed-up in certain quantum networks with bottlenecks.
On: February 3, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof. Sheila Rowan ( University of Glasgow)
In Feb 2016 the international LIGO Scientific
Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration announced that the twin ‘Advanced LIGO’
observatories had allowed the first direct detection of gravitational waves from
astrophysical sources. The waves detected originated from the collision and
merger of two black holes 1.3 billion light years from earth. This detection
marked the start of new field of gravitational astrophysics, announced in the
100th anniversary year of Einstein’s prediction of the existence of
gravitational waves. This talk will discuss the discovery, the status of
observations since then, plans for the global network of advanced gravitational
wave detectors and what the future of the field might look like.
On: February 10, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof. G. McGarry MBChB,MD, FRCSEd, FRCS(ORLHNS), FFSTEd ( Consultant Head and Neck and Anterior Skull Base Surgeon, Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS, Hon. Senior Lecturer University of Glasgow, Wade Professor of Surgical Studies RCSEd)
The Head and Neck and Cranial
cavity represents the most surgically challenging area of the human body. The
juxta-position of major blood vessels, nerves, brain, eyes and neural
structures necessitates super-precise technique in order to achieve safe
surgical outcomes and a live, functioning patient.
Traditionally surgery in this area
has required radical “open” operations using large incisions and exposure of
major structures through destructive approaches to reach difficult tumours in
In this talk I will illustrate how
the application of physics has revolutionized the way that surgeons operate .
We will take a surgical journey through the diagnosis and treatment of a tumour
situated at the base of the brain, via a ‘natural-portal approach’ made
possible through technological advances.
The role of magnetic resonance
imaging, high-resolution optics, infra-red surgical navigation systems,
electrical, thermal, kinetic and sonographic instrumentation will be
The challenges of working in this
domain will be highlighted and areas where physics can be applied in the future
will be discussed.
On: February 17, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Sami Mikhail ( University of St Andrews)
To find solar systems hosting habitable exoplanets
with similar geological and environmental conditions to Earth, we first must
understand what it takes for an Earth-like planet to develop into an
inhospitable wasteland. To this end, Earth and Venus are an ideal natural
experiment. For example, these two planets are colloquially referred to as
sister planets because of their similar size and composition. However, their
contrasting volcanology, atmospheric mass and chemistry, climate, and
geomorphology are striking. In short, the Venusian atmosphere and surface
contains five orders of magnitude less water than Earthand the average
surface temperature on Venus is 460 °C. In addition, Venus is a relatively flat
planet, where only 2% of the surface is shows any appreciable topography.
Earth, by contrast, has a wet and cold surface with a bimodal topography (e.g.
mountain ranges and ocean basins). Suffice to say, these are not identical
siblings. I will outline an physically constrained and chemically supported
model that explains why volcanic activity on Venus is retarded when compared
with Earth. In short, I find that the climate on Venus is so hot it inhibits
volcanism and tectonism. The model I propose satisfies the overall flatness and
relative dearth of volcanoes on the surface of Venus, and the chemical
composition of the Venusian atmosphere. I also show why distance from the sun
cannot solely account for the hotter Venusian climate, and in fact argue that
if it were not for stochastic impact events, Earth’s climate should be hundreds
of degrees hotter and completely inhospitable to life. These results
inform on the development of habitability in our own Solar System, and
therefore, they speak towards the most ambitious human endeavor of all –
On: February 24, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Suchitra Sebastian ( University of Cambridge)
On: March 3, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Prof Craig Mackay ( University of Cambridge)
Although we are building bigger and bigger optical
telescopes, the angular resolution obtained with ground-based telescopes has
changed little over the last century. The Hubble Space Telescope (2.5 m) has
given a tenfold improvement on that yet ground-based telescopes struggle to
match that using conventional adaptive optic techniques. They need either
scarce bright reference stars or complex and unreliable laser guide star
New technologies are now delivering images on large
ground-based telescopes that are much sharper than ever before achieved. One
particular challenge is to allow these techniques to be used with faint
reference stars so that high angular resolution close to the diffraction limit
of the telescope may be achieved over much of the sky.
On: March 10, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Martina Gerken ( University of Kiel)
Periodic dielectric photonic nanostructures are
used extensively as transducers in refractive index sensors. Photonic crystal
slabs provide sharp resonances in the transmission and reflection spectrum.
Changes in resonance wavelength, resonance angle, or resonance intensity are
measured to monitor changes in the analyte region on top of the structure.
Nanostructured surfaces and the application of different modes for an
intensity-based readout are investigated. A reader device for label-free
cellular assays with the same footprint as a microtiter plate is presented and
employed for G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) experiments. By specific
biofunctionalization of the nanostructured surface, specific molecule capture
is achieved. A handheld intensity-based measurement setup is demonstrated that
allows for imaging detection of binding events at the surface.
On: March 31, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Sarah Ballard ( University of Washington)
The Solar System furnishes the
most familiar planetary architecture:
many planets, orbiting nearly coplanar to one
another. However, the most common planetary systems
in the Milky Way orbit much smaller M dwarf stars, and these may present a very
different blueprint. The Kepler data set has uncovered more than 100 exoplanets
orbiting stars half the mass of the sun and smaller. Half of these planets reside in systems with at least one
additional planet. The data much prefer a model with two distinct modes of
planet formation around M dwarfs, which occur in roughly equal measure. One
mode is one very similar to the Solar System in terms of multiplicity and
coplanarity, and the other is very dissimilar. In the context of the “Kepler
Dichotomy,” we've studied the broadband transmission spectra (with data from
Kepler and hundreds of hours of Spitzer observations) of dozens of M
dwarf planets: half of which reside in one
type of planetarysystem, and half in the
other. Although the data set is too small and the observational uncertainty too
large to characterize any one system alone, I'll describe ensemble trends between planetary dynamics
and atmospheric content and how we're leveraging these studies to maximize the
return of forthcoming JWST studies of potentially habitable exoplanets.
On: April 7, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am
Speaker: Dr Silvia Vignolini ( University of Cambridge)
Nature’s most vivid colours rely on the ability to
produce complex and hierarchical photonic structures with lattice constants on
the order of the wavelength of visible radiation . A recurring strategy design that is found
both in the animal and plant kingdoms for producing such effects is the
helicoidal multilayers [2,3]. In such structures, a series of individual
nano-fibers (made of natural polymers as cellulose and chitin) are arranged
parallel to each other in stacked planes. When distance between such planes is
comparable to the wavelength of light, a strong polarised, colour selective
response can be obtained . These helicoidal multilayers are generally
structured on the micro-scale and macroscopic scale giving rise to complex
Biomimetic with cellulose-based architectures enables
us to fabricate novel photonic structures using low cost materials in ambient
conditions [5-7]. Importantly, it also allows us to understand the biological
processes at work during the growth of these structures in plants. In this talk
the route for the fabrication of complex bio-mimetic cellulose-based photonic
structures will be presented and the optical properties of artificial
structures will be analyzed and compared with the natural ones.
 Vignolini, S. et al. (2012).
Pointillist structural color in Pollia fruit PNAS 109, 15712-15716.
 Wilts, B. D, et al. (2014).
Natural Helicoidal Structures: Morphology, Self-assembly and Optical
Properties. Materials Today: Proceedings, 1, 177–185.
 de Vries, H. (1951). Rotatory
power and other optical properties of certain liquid crystals. Acta Cryst.,
 Dumanli, A. G., et al. (2014).
Controlled, Bio-inspired Self-Assembly of Cellulose-Based Chiral Reflectors.
Adv. Opt Mat., 2(7), 646–650.
 Parker R. et al. (2016).
Hierarchical Self-Assembly of Cellulose Nanocrystals in a Confined Geometry ACS Nano, 2016, 10 (9), 8443–8449
 Kamita G. et al. (2016).
Biocompatible and Sustainable Optical Strain Sensors for Large-Area Applications Adv. Opt. Mat. DOI: 10.1002/adom.201600451
On: April 21, 2017 From: 10:00 am To: 11:00 am