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    Archive for the 'Maths and Physical Sciences' Category

    A particle physics evening

    By Oli Usher, on 29 August 2014

    Particle physics is a particularly abstruse area of science. The phenomena studied are so different from what we know and see that it is incredibly hard to convey even the most basic concepts.

    Which makes it all the more remarkable that the past few years have seen an explosion in public interest in particle physics. The construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN a decade ago was one trigger for this – and the LHC’s triumphant discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012 only confirmed the discipline’s popularity.

    UCL is a major participant in the LHC (witness the 24 UCL authors of one of the papers that confirmed the discovery of the Higgs particle). Last week saw the BOOST conference, an international workshop for particle physicists at UCL. A group of them held a public event (A Particle Physics Evening, 20 August) hosted by UCL’s head of physics, Jon Butterworth.

    Participants in the BOOST workshop, with Jon Butterworth at the centre. Photo credit: James Monk

    Participants in the BOOST workshop, with Jon Butterworth at the centre. Photo credit: James Monk

    The evening featured various talks on CERN and particle physics, including a live linkup with the CERN control room. (Unusually, given how flaky the technology usually is, the video-conferencing worked flawlessly. This is just as well – any networking problems would have been embarrassing given the world wide web was invented at CERN and UCL had the UK’s first connection to the internet.).


    Rosetta: chasing a time-capsule bigger than Mt. Fuji

    By Rebecca L Caygill, on 10 July 2014

    “Comets can be thought of as the deep frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system,” said Dr Matt Taylor from the European Space Agency, opening his public lecture yesterday titled ‘The Rosetta Story: A comet, an amazing spacecraft and their journey around the Sun’, part of the Sixth Alfven Conference hosted by UCL.


    How big is Rosetta’s comet? Credit: ESA

    Studying these “potato-shaped”’ (his words, not mine) left-overs might provide scientists with answers about how water and the building blocks of life were delivered to Earth. Rosetta is a mission that aims to do it in a way never tried before, by getting up close and personal with a comet.


    Professional Services Conference

    By Jack H C Dean, on 24 June 2014

    The inaugural Professional Services Conference took place on Monday, 16 June. The afternoon consisted of a series of presentations and panel discussions followed by an awards ceremony for staff and teams nominated by their colleagues across the university.

    Rex Knight, Vice-Provost (Operations), introduced the conference as a “celebration of work going on across the university”. Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education) said: “it’s all too easy for academic events to take precedent. This is an opportunity to say thank you to the unsung aspects of the institution.”

    Empowered - Emma Todd and Alice Chilver (UCL Bartlett)

    Empowered – Emma Todd and Alice Chilver (UCL Bartlett)

    Over the past decade, there has been a 20% increase in staff and a 16% increase in student numbers and Knight continued “thanks to your extraordinary professionalism all would not be as it is without what you do”.

    There were then presentations from Emma Todd and Alice Chilver (UCL Bartlett), co-founders of Astrea, the professional women’s network at UCL. Dr. Debbie Challis spoke about the exhibition, A Fusion of Worlds, at the Petrie Museum and funded by UCL Grand Challenges.

    Finally, Bob Carey discussed the Strategic Leadership Programme and Steve Rowalt and Kate Cheney delivered their presentation on the UCL Masterplan 2011, which has overseen the current transformation of the Cruciform Hub – @ucl_crucitwit.

    The Professional Services Awards consisted of five categories with nominations coming from a diverse range of staff across the university. Emma Todd, Strategic Communications Manager and Alice Chilver, Business Development Manager at the UCL Bartlett, won the ‘Empowered… confident and enabling’ award for their work in setting up Astrea. (more…)

    Have your say: how should the government invest capital for scientific research?

    By Guest Blogger, on 7 May 2014

    pencil-icon  Written by Cher Thornhill

    The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, recently visited UCL to deliver a talk entitled, ‘New opportunities for science capital’.

    After negotiating my way around protesting students, I gained entry to UCL’s Darwin Lecture Theatre, which dissolved the tense, edgy atmosphere with a gentle, studious calm.

    Rt Hon David Willetts

    Rt Hon David Willetts MP

    Recurrent spend
    When it comes to government science spending, the major recurrent spend includes money for:research councils (RCs), the higher education funding council for England (HEFCE), learned societies and Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF).

    Mr Willetts began his talk by hailing the coalition’s commitment to such spending. “We’ve not just maintained a £4.6 billion science ring fence but are now modestly increasing it,” said Willetts, who added that the research council budget allocations had been announced earlier that day.

    Capital revival
    In the current age of austerity, the government has also made a long-term commitment to increase capital investment in science and research to £1.1 billion in 2015–2016 and to grow it in line with inflation each year to 2020–2021, Willett added.

    “Total science and research spending is at the highest level it’s been in recorded science-spend history,” he said proudly. In addition to the recurrent spending, £5.8 billion – almost a quarter of the ring-fenced amount – has been allocated to capital investment in science and research over the next five years.