2019 Archive

2nd December 2019 – “Gravitational wave astronomy” Prof Ian Jones – STAG

On February 11th 2016, something truly remarkable was announced to the world – the detection of gravitational waves from two colliding back holes.  Described as one of the greatest discoveries of the century, it confirmed a prediction made by Albert Einstein himself, exactly one hundred years earlier.  In this talk, I will describe why this really is a big deal, what is means for physics and astronomy, what else we have detected since, and what we might have to look forward to in the future.  The story will take us to some interesting places, involving lasers, super-precise experiments, and, of course, the black holes themselves.

Prof Ian Jones is an expert on astrophysical sources of gravitational waves.  He is a member of the Gravity Group in the department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Southampton.  He is also a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the group that in February 2016 announced the first ever detection of gravitational waves, confirming an outstanding prediction of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and giving us the most direct view yet of those most mysterious objects – black holes.

4th November 2019 “Black holes as bubbles of fluids” – Dr Oscar Campos-Dias – STAG 

Stephen Hawking told us that black holes are not after all that dark since they can emit quantum thermal radiation. It follows that to fully understand black holes we will ultimately have to have a theory of quantum gravity. While searching for this theory, in recent years it was found that gravity and certain quantum theories can be mapped to each other via a one-to-one correspondence that we call a holographic duality. And, remarkably, in certain regimes this holographic duality is such that black holes can be described by hydrodynamics or fluid physics. That is to say, in certain conditions black holes behave very much like fluids and soap bubbles. And phenomena like turbulence and vortices (so familiar to us in hurricanes) can be found also in the study of black holes. I will discuss how some of these ideas emerged.

Oscar Dias is a member of the String Theory and Gravity Group in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and STAG, University of Southampton. Before arriving in Southampton, initially as an STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow, Oscar Dias was a researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (Canada), at the Kavli Institute (California), at the University of Barcelona, at DAMTP (Cambridge) and at the Commissariat for Atomic Energy (France). He does research on black holes and holographic dualities.

7th October 2019 “Not so fantastic plastic.” Prof Andrea Russell 

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet programme highlighted the problems with plastics in the oceans, but the problems with plastics in the environment have been known for quite some time. Prof. Andrea Russell, collaborating with Prof. Richard Thompson of Plymouth University, was one of the authors on the paper that introduced the term microplastics in the scientific literature back in 2004 in a paper called “Lost at Sea, Where is all the Plastic”.

In this talk we’ll have look at the problem with plastics. The more common plastics in use will be discussed. Then we’ll consider the role of recycling and composting and explore how microplastic fragments wind up in the natural environment. We’ll also consider where plastics are necessary to modern life and why total elimination of their use is probably not the answer to the plastics problem.

Andrea Russell is Professor of Physical Electrochemistry. Her research interests are in the application of spectroscopic methods to study the electrode/electrolyte interface, with particular emphasis on electrocatalysts and electrode materials for fuel cells, metal-air batteries, water electrolysers, and gas sensors.

Professor Russell obtained her BS degree in Chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1986 and then went on to the University of Utah to complete her PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry in 1989, with funding from the US Congress through a Patricia Harris Fellowship. She was then awarded an NRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work at the US Naval Research Laboratory. She came to the UK in 1991, first holding temporary lectureships at the Universities of Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne. She was appointed to a lectureship in Physical Chemistry at the University of Southampton in 1997 and promoted to Professor of Physical Electrochemistry in 2007. In 2011 she was appointed as an Adjunct Professor in Chemical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

Andrea’s research often involves the use of national and international facilities such as the Diamond Light Source, ISIS, and other synchrotron radiation sources in Europe and the USA. She is particularly known for her in situ and in operando X-ray aborption spectroscopic studies of electrocatalysts, with an emphasis on electrocatalysts for PEM fuel cells.

She is the author or co-author of > 70 refereed papers, including an invited review article and has chaired a number of international conferences and symposia, such as the Gordon Research Conference on Fuel Cells (2002) and a Faraday Discussion on Electrocatalysis (2008). She is a member of the EPSRC College, Chair of the Physical Electrochemistry Division of the International Society of Electrochemistry and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Higher Education Academy.

Andrea’s undergraduate teaching contributions are primarily focused in the first year of the Physical Chemistry course, where she lectures on equilibria and electrochemistry. She also delivers mathematics workshops and key-skills training as part of the practical chemistry module and lectures on ethical practices in science, engineering, and technology. At the postgraduate level she contributes to the electrochemistry modules and the Southampton Electrochemistry Summer Schools, both in the UK and abroad (Xiamen in 2009 and 2012).

She currently serves as the Director of Programmes for Chemistry.

2nd September 2019  – “Fungi are more than just soup: An appreciation of a poorly understood kingdom”- Dr Stuart Skeates

Stuart has been an enthusiastic amateur mycologist for most of his adult life after a good friend and mentor from the Natural History Museum introduced him to this little known kingdom. His talk will be a general introduction to the fungal kingdom looking not just at their diversity but also their evolutionary history, their roles in the environment and their interactions with humans, both helpful and problematic. Fungi can be found in almost every aspect of the world around us even being able to survive in space.

In his professional life he worked as a GP and medical educationalist, a career he realised was his calling following a brief diversion into mathematics. He has been leader of the Hampshire Fungus Recording group for the past fifteen years which has been documenting the 3000 species of fungi found in Hampshire. The group has found many new species to Britain and some newly described species.

5th August  2019 “Designing cycleways” Helen Littler

Helen’s talk will discuss the science behind designing for cyclists – balancing the needs of these muscle powered machines against other road users. She will then show some cycling projects to demonstrate how these principles are applied to real life civil engineering.

2019 is the Centenary of the Women in Engineering Society, Helen will be briefly discussing the history of the society and its role today.

Hampshire born Helen has been cycling Southern Hampshire since she learnt to ride at age six. It was also around this point she decided to be a civil engineer. She is now a Chartered Civil Engineer at WSP, fulling her dream of designing infrastructure to get more people travelling actively.

3rd June 2019 “ Nanostructured Materials” Dr Alex Robertson

The development of new materials is often the key enabling step that allows us to realise new technologies. A famous example of this is how the integrated circuit, the basis for all our phones and computers, was only possible thanks to the invention and perfection of an exacting technique for growing high quality silicon crystals. Now, many of the greatest scientific challenges are bottlenecked by the development of new materials. The field of nanomaterials is now revolutionising many fields, such as giving us better catalysts in industry, and is poised to deliver leaps in electronics, batteries, healthcare, and structural materials.

I will discuss what makes a nanomaterial, and introduce some of the main candidates of interest. This includes graphene, whose emergence has caused a lot of interest over the past fifteen years. I will discuss how their structure gives them their unique and exciting properties, and explore if and how they may impact our daily lives in the future. Finally, I will include some discussion of what my own research is in this field, and how it links in to the big picture of nanomaterials research.

Dr Alex Robertson is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. His research as a doctoral student and a post-doc was on the synthesis and characterisation of nanomaterials, with a particular focus on graphene. With the support of the Royal Society, he has now moved toward developing new techniques to understand how battery materials behave, and degrade, while they are charged and discharged.

Dr Alex Robertson is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. His research as a doctoral student and a post-doc was on the synthesis and characterisation of nanomaterials, with a particular focus on graphene. With the support of the Royal Society, he has now moved toward developing new techniques to understand how battery materials behave, and degrade, while they are charged and discharged.

20th May 2019 “Neutron stars: Laboratories for fundamental physics” – Dr Andreas Schmitt

Neutron stars are ultra-dense. Matter in their interior is very different from ordinary matter on earth or even from ordinary stellar matter. In the quest to understand properties of neutron stars we are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of nuclear and particle physics. In this talk, I will give a pedagogical introduction to dense matter inside neutron stars and discuss how researchers attempt to “look inside” the star, i.e., how astrophysical observations can be connected with microscopic and fundamental properties of matter.

2004          PhD at Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
2005-2007 Postdoctoral positions at MIT in Cambridge, USA, and Washington University in St Louis, USA
2007-2015 Postdoc and Assistant Professor at Technical University Vienna, Austria
2015 –       Ernest Rutherford Fellow and Associate Professor (since 2019) at University of Southampton and STAG research centre

April 1st 2019 “The very, very early universe”. Prof David Wands

The present-day expansion of our universe points towards a singular origin, 14 billion years ago, in a Hot Big Bang. This conclusion seems inescapable within the context of Einstein’s classical theory of general relativity and the matter and radiation we observe around us. But the detailed structure of our Universe, revealed in the largest astronomical surveys currently underway, implies a pattern of primordial density fluctuations that may require a quantum origin soon after or, perhaps, even before the Big Bang. I will discuss how cosmologists use current observations to infer anything about the very early universe, and what we think we know about fundamental physics and the Big Bang.

I am Professor of Cosmology at the University of Portsmouth and Director of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation. I studied at the University of Cambridge and did my PhD at Sussex, before joining the University of Portsmouth in 1996. My research focuses on the physics of he very early universe, a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, and the origin of cosmic structure. I have published over 150 papers and given scientific talks on five continents.

March 4th “What is a quantum internet?” Daryus Chandra

As we shrink the size of transistors further and further, the inevitable quantum phenomenon on nano-scale level starts to prevail. In quantum regime, the general rules of thumb for developing classical computers that we currently have will no longer valid. However, the weird and often-strange quantum properties can be exploited to build quantum computers, which exhibit a superpower computing capability. While such quantum computers may impose the threat of jeopardizing most of our encryption systems, the quantum mechanical properties also offer the wonderful solution for establishing an absolute-secure and unbreachable quantum communication system, even with the advent of quantum computers. With the emerge of quantum technologies, such as quantum computers and quantum communications, one may ask a judicious question, “Can we build the so-called ‘Quantum Internet?'” In this talk, we will try to explore this problem by demystifying the concept of quantum computation and quantum communication accompanied by the recent research progress in this area. Finally, you may wonder if the answer to the question is in the superposition between ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Daryus Chandra received his bachelor of engineering (B.Eng.) and master of engineering (M.Eng.) degree in Electronics Engineering from a five-year integrated bachelor-master programme, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, in 2013 and 2014, respectively. After that, he spent one year serving as a Research and Teaching Assistant at the same institution. Since September 2015, he joined the Next Generation Wireless Research Group, University of Southampton for pursuing PhD degree. His research interests revolve around quantum information, quantum communication, and quantum error-correction codes. More specifically, the implementation of the quantum error-correction codes for maintaining the reliability of quantum computation and quantum communication system for the near-future quantum computers and quantum internet. Currently, he is also a course instructor managed by Lifelong Learning Department, University of Southampton, delivering an introduction course of quantum computation and communication to public audiences.

Mon Feb 4th  2019 “The Origin of the First Supermassive Black Holes in the Universe” Dr Dan Whalen

Most massive galaxies in the universe today harbor supermassive black holes (SMBHs), with masses from a few million to tens of billions of solar masses.  But very bright quasars powered by billion solar mass BHs have now been discovered at redshift z ~ 7, or just 775 million years after the Big Bang.  They pose serious challenges to current theories of cosmological structure formation because it is not known how BHs this massive appeared by such early epochs.  I will discuss the possible origins of the first quasars and present new supercomputer simulations of how they could form in the first billion years of the universe.

Dan’s biography: PhD University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign 2006 Research Fellow, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) 2006 – 2009 McWilliams Fellow in Cosmology, Carnegie Mellon University 2009 – 2012 Research Scientist, LANL 2012 – 2014 Deputy Group Leader, Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, Univ of Heidelberg 2014 – 2016 Senior Lecturer, Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth 2016 On


Mon 7th Jan 2019. “Wireless Communications: Towards a Connected World of People and Things.” K. Satyanarayana

Wireless communication has evolved from pigeon-post to paging, voice calls, text messages, video calls – and now Internet everywhere. It has become the ubiquitous means of socializing, doing business and of entertainment. There are around 5 billion mobile phones in use through which we transmit around 60 terabytes of data every month. And yet, this is just the beginning – the future is even more exciting as we are moving from the internet-of-things to holographic video calls, which can conjure up the image of a person right in the room when we talk to them. However, one of the key issues of this technology, whether we have the capacity to accommodate all these users at a high quality-of-service. An obvious solution to circumvent this problem is to increase the bandwidth used. But we only have a limited bandwidth.

In this talk, I shall shed light on how to address this problem.

Satyanarayana (www.satyanarayana.xyz) received his B. Tech. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India, in 2014. During Jul’14-Aug’15, he worked as a research assistant at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Currently, Satya is a research scholar in Wireless Communications at the University of Southampton in liaison with InterDigital Europe, London, UK. His research interests include millimeter wave communications, hybrid beamforming, with an emphasis on transceiver algorithms for wireless communication systems and multi-functional MIMO. He has over a dozen publications and a patent.