Category Archives: Uncategorized

25Apr/22

GRADnet Astrobiology and Planetary Science Workshop: Mars Rover fun!

The Astrobiology and Planetary Science workshop took place on 20-21 April 2022 at the Open University in Milton Keynes for SEPnet postgraduate researchers.

Thank you to Dr Matt Balme who led the workshop and his colleagues at the OU and Mars Yard:  Geoff Austin, Alex Barrett, Richard Busutil, Simone Cogliati, Elena Favaro, Paul Streeter and Susanne Schwenzer.

Thank you to Frances Westall, Director of Research at the Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire Equipe Exobiologie,  who gave a lecture on “Mars Astrobiology” and Professor Sanjeev Gupta, Imperial College London, for his talk on “Perseverance Rover mission”.

An evening dinner was held for delegates and academics to network after a long absence of face-to-face events due to the pandemic.

Delegates found the workshop “interesting, good fun, challenging and very rewarding”.  “The best part of it was being actively involved in the actions of the Mars rover in the Mars yard and working with people as part of a team. The lectures were very good as well.”

GRADnet is looking forward to hosting more residential workshops in the future! Look out for an announcement in September for details of our training programme for 2022-2023!

31Mar/22

First F2F GRADnet event in two years:  Advanced Materials Workshop at RHUL

Around 20 delegates from across the SEPnet institutes attended the Advanced Materials workshop on Monday, 28 March 2022 at Royal Holloway.

The workshop included the following sessions:

  • Dr Sam Carr:  The theory of strongly correlated systems
  • Dr David Voneshen:  Neutron scattering

The workshop concluded with a proposal writing and review session in which the delegates came up with their own applications for experiments at a large facility. These spanned an exciting range of science covering organic thin films, superconductors and spintronic systems. Only one could be awarded time though with the “panel” backing the thin film proposal.

One of the delegates said “I think the workshop was really great and I am hoping that there will be others in the future that I can take part in.”  They thought the “presentations were comprehensible and the lecturers really friendly and easy to communicate with”.   They found the session on how to prepare the beam proposals “a really good idea”.

 GRADnet hopes to be able to offer a 2-day event next time to cover some of the sessions in more detail as it was not possible this year due to the pandemic.

Thank you to Jon Goff, Professor of Experimental Condensed Matter Physics, Department of Physics, Royal Holloway University of London who organised this event on behalf of GRADnet and Dr Sam Carr, Lecturer in Physics University of Kent and Dr David Voneshen, ISIS, Science Technology Facilities Council, for their valued contribution to this event.

16Feb/22

GRADnet Winter School 2022: Moving from Science into Business

The GRADnet Winter School took place 14-15 February 2022 and was attended by SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

Thank you to Julia Shalet at Product Doctor and author of “The really good idea test” who delivered the online training this year. Julia describes how the training went:

“Our theme was “Moving from Science into Business”. We spent two online days generating some real business ideas and working through the commercial opportunities. By the end of the workshop, four teams talked us through their entire business model in under 4 minutes each – amazing! 

We promised the participants that they would get to turn an idea into a meaningful value proposition that focuses on solving people’s problems; find out how to reduce the biggest risks before building anything; map up a new business model and throughout practice good time and people management, written and oral presentation skills, identify and solve problems by gathering evidence of risks and find out the importance of being flexible.

Our participants gave our course brilliant scores – here is what they told us:

  • Very informative, engaging, and worthwhile with a friendly presenter who was open to questions and explained concepts clearly. 
  • It started with simple ideas and built us up to delivering a presentation lasting just a few minutes which brought together everything we had done over the two days. 
  • The significant thing about this course is that it allows the participant to recreate the required steps for any idea 
  • I loved the active group work in each section, which helped to solidify ideas when they were presented to us. 
  • I don’t know whether starting my own business is necessarily for me, however I don’t regret attending, as it was very informative and helpful!
  • Really very useful – I have a product ready to sell but did not have any idea how to start and make a good business plan.

So that’s a wrap, another Winter School is done. In the nature of true innovation, we tested and learned from some new formats and we’ve already identified another twist for next year, when we look forward to meeting in person.”

The GRADnet Summer School takes place 4-5 July 2022 at the National Physical Laboratory.  If you are a SEPnet postgraduate or postdoctoral researcher or are part of  NPL’s Postgraduate Institute and would like to register for this event click here.

17Jan/22

SEPnet Summer Placements 2022 – Do you have a project/work experience for a physics or maths undergraduate or PhD student?

SEPnet organises over 80 summer placements a year for all 2nd and 3rd year physics and maths undergraduate and PhD students at the above universities and is seeking 8-week plus projects in industry or research in areas such as data analysis, mathematical modelling, programming, product design and testing or science communication.

Who can apply?
The scheme is aimed at any organisations interested in recruiting physics or maths graduates, or who can offer valuable business experience, including large companies, SMEs, start-ups, research institutions, charities and NGOs.

Benefits to employers
• Early access to bright, numerate students with excellent problem-solving and IT skills
• Enables you to carry out projects you would not normally have time for
• Provides a fresh perspective on your business challenges
• All advertising, administration and placement support is handled by the SEPnet team
• Match-funding available for SMEs!

What employers have said:
‘Very satisfied with the whole process, organised and straightforward, with good students.’
‘We took SEPnet students for the second year running and have been very impressed with the calibre, their capabilities and the general high standard. For your records we have just made a permanent job offer to one of the students…’.

Register your placement project, or projects, online here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/SEPnet_Summer_Placements_2022_Employer_Registration/ by Friday 11 February. Email summerplacements@sepnet.ac.uk for further information.

14Jan/22

Portsmouth ICG Public Engagement Team win Prestigious Royal Astronomical Society Annie Maunder Medal

Dr Nicolas Bonne, Dr Jen Gupta and Dr Coleman Krawczyk have been awarded the RAS’s Annie Maunder Medal for their work on the Tactile Universe Project. The Annie Maunder Medal is awarded annually for outstanding outreach work.

The Tactile Universe project delivers workshops that make astronomy accessible to vision-impaired children. Their work enables children between the ages of 7 and 14, to experience the benefits of a multi-sensory learning experience, inspiring them to the wonders of the universe with 3d models of galaxies, the Solar System and using sound. A newly funded STFC project will enable the project to expand its interests to the communicate research into gravitational waves. In addition to delivering workshops, the team have created resource kits and train other practitioners and museums to share knowledge so that the project goals are disseminated widely across the UK. The project has received international recognition through invited conference talks, and media coverage, including an appearance on BBC’s The Sky at Night, and has collaborated with an international installation at the British Science Festival. The Tactile Universe also has international reach through the project’s website, where educators across the world can access developed lesson plans, presentations, and instructions for how to create 3d printed models to deliver astronomy classes to children regardless of their level of vision. The Tactile Universe project and its team are commended for their continuing efforts to create a more inclusive environment that brings astronomy to all.

SEPnet send the Tactile Universe team our heartiest congratulations on this fantastic achievement. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Nic, Jen and Coleman and look forward to continuing to do so through the exciting next phase of the project.

13Jan/22

Machine Learning & AI Online Workshop 12 January 2022

Thank you to Professor Adrian Bevan, Head of Department of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London who delivered the GRADnet Machine Learning & AI online workshop on 12 January 2022 to over 40 postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

Adrian’s view of how the day went: “It is important to develop and maintain relevant skills throughout our working lives, from the moment we start studying through to the day we retire. Really great to see a new generation of Physics PhD students as a part of the GRADnet programme follow the 2022 GRADnet Machine Learning workshop today. We had over 50 participants registered for the event, which covered real world use of ML, an introduction to machine learning using TensorFlow, and an overview of how to use data science to predict air-pollution – a global problem that is gaining prominence in terms of links to health.

Our first speaker was an ex-Physicist and Queen Mary University of London alumnus Dr Tom Charman. He now works at Accelex on the use of AI in industry, focusing on NLP application to financial documentation. It was fascinating to see the same kinds of thought processes and workflow ideas that help particle physicists analyse abstract forms of data to find the Higgs boson, and search for new particles at the LHC applied to NLP problems in the real world. This really highlights that the skills sets developed as a physicist are really widely transferable. Learning about the priorities of UK companies in terms of the additional skill sets beyond that taught in the curriculum, is also a great help – as we all need to embrace professional development in our careers, from the outset until the day we retire.

Drs Marcella Bona and Jia-Chen Hue from Queen Mary University of London talked about the SAPIENS (Smart Air Pollution Information Enabling New Solutions) project looking at data sets collected in Mexico City and how from that one can predict air pollution. This was another data science project that used methods (and code!) from an LHC analysis – this time used for rare B decay studies on ATLAS. The ability for physicists to work in a multidisciplinary team of data scientists to study this critical and ubiquitous problem facing populations of large cities across the planet is amazing. Again it highlights the importance of learning how to solve a problem in whatever you want to specialise in and then look for interesting ways to make a difference by applying your knowledge elsewhere. Sharing that expertise across the disciplines helps make great ideas turn into real outcomes.

The tutorial part of the day was run by me with the help of a great graduate student, Joe Davies. We started off looking at a simple linear regression problem using keras. For those of you who studied linear regression at school, yes this is really overkill. However it is a great starting example to pedagogically explore how optimisation works for machine learning and to turn the dry math associated with the books and papers to see in action with a single input, single output problem that can be solved analytically, what happens when you get let loose with the ADAM optimiser. This helps provide a solid grounding to discuss machine learning optimisation problems in general, and is a good way to separate out how optimisation works in practice from the more complicated issues surrounding neural networks in the form of multilayer perceptrons, deep learning and moving on to convolutional neural networks. The workshop stopped there, as we ran out of time at the end of the day having covered a great deal of material. The real stars were the participants. We had some great questions and discussions throughout the day.

This was a SEPnet organised event run at Queen Mary University of London in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Sadly for the second year in a row this was an online-only event, but we are hopeful that next year we will be able to resume in-person meetings and move back to a multi-day workshop on campus, taking on board feedback from the participants to make the workshop even better.

  • If you want to get involved in GRADnet ML 2023 reach out to me via my linked in page to ask how to get involved.
  • The code used in the GRADnet ML tutorial can be found on my git hub page.
  • You can find more of my machine learning teaching material on my teaching home page.”
22Dec/21

Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, 7-10 April 2022, Glasgow – register by 14 January!!

The University of Glasgow is very pleased to host the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics on 7-10 April 2022.

CUWiP encourages female undergraduates to continue in physics by focusing on their development as a scientist and showcasing options for their educational and professional futures.

The 3-day conference programme includes presentations by distinguished women physicists on their cutting-edge research, personal career paths by inspirational women in academia, industry and the third sector and tours of laboratories or local sites of interest.

Additionally, there will be expert panels to answer questions on graduate study and career opportunities outside of academia, workshops on effective assertiveness, imposter syndrome and microaggression as well as plenty of networking opportunities.

The application site is now open and closes on 14 January 2022.
https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/physics/equality/cuwip/

13Dec/21

SEPnet Summer Placements 2022 – Do you have a project/work experience for a physics or maths undergraduate or PhD student?

SEPnet organises over 80 summer placements a year for all 2nd and 3rd year physics and maths undergraduate and PhD students at the above universities and is seeking 8-week plus projects in industry or research in areas such as data analysis, mathematical modelling, programming, product design and testing or science communication.

Who can apply?
The scheme is aimed at any organisations interested in recruiting physics or maths graduates, or who can offer valuable business experience, including large companies, SMEs, start-ups, research institutions, charities and NGOs.

Benefits to employers
• Early access to bright, numerate students with excellent problem-solving and IT skills
• Enables you to carry out projects you would not normally have time for
• Provides a fresh perspective on your business challenges
• All advertising, administration and placement support is handled by the SEPnet team
• Match-funding available for SMEs!

What employers have said:
‘Very satisfied with the whole process, organised and straightforward, with good students.’
‘We took SEPnet students for the second year running and have been very impressed with the calibre, their capabilities and the general high standard. For your records we have just made a permanent job offer to one of the students…’.

Register your placement project, or projects, online here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/SEPnet_Summer_Placements_2022_Employer_Registration/ by Friday 11 February. Email summerplacements@sepnet.ac.uk for further information.

06Dec/21

Revisiting the Leaky Pipeline – short-term contracts and career planning – 5th Annual SEPnet EDI Workshop

SEPnet partner, University of Sussex, recently hosted a half-day online workshop to share good practice in addressing barriers to career progression for women and other under-represented groups in STEM with particular focus on the impact of short-term contracts on career choices on early career researchers (ECRs). The number of people from under-represented groups reduces at each career stage of the academic career path in physics and other STEM disciplines. This workshop focused on the postdoctoral phase of an ECR’s career and explored how the typical series of short-term contracts affects their career choices.

Professor Matthias Keller, head Sussex’s School of Physical Sciences EDI committee, chaired the event. Professor Kathy Romer, also at Sussex, focused on the challenges of managing a successful academic career including dealing with imposter syndrome, the expectation to move institutions (and countries), managing relationships and competing academic careers and dealing with childcare issues. Dr Gregory Ashton at Royal Holloway gave the early career researcher’s perspective highlighting some of the benefits around flexibility and opportunities to travel and gain broad experience and provided tips for ensuring job security and avoiding stagnation. He drew attention to the need for better structural support through clear policies, pointing out that ‘heroes are often examples of failed policy’.

Rana Marrington, ECR Career Consultant at Surrey discussed the value of mentors, the expectation that under-represented individuals are expected to ‘fit in’ and adapt to an existing culture which favours only a few and the benefits of the UKRI’s narrative CV which helps to recognise individuals’ broad skills and experience beyond research. She went on to highlight the benefits of unconscious bias training, transparent progression routes and the importance of having a team of personal and professional individuals on your side. Finally Annika Lohstroh, Lecturer and EDI lead in the School of Physical Sciences at the Open University, identified some of the steps needed to address these issues including the need to move beyond box ticking and truly embed inclusive working practices, clear incident report mechanisms and effective training for managers and supervisors.

Group discussions following the presentations included recommendations for mandatory training for supervisors in supporting their PhD students, addressing the top down culture within universities and regulations regarding processes that can hamper effective communication eg lack of transparency relating to career progression opportunities, complaints procedures etc.

To contribute to this discussion, request to join SEPnet’s Equality & Diversity Champions Network here: SEPnet Equality & Diversity Champions Network | Groups | LinkedIn. To sign up to SEPnet’s Diversity jiscmail group to share information on EDI events and initiatives, email c.soares@surrey.ac.uk.