Physics students draw eminent speakers to their UK and Ireland conference

28 July 2017

Around 180 students from all over the UK and Ireland took part in this year’s Conference of Physics and Astronomy Students (CAPS’17), held at University College London (UCL) on 27–30 June.

Physics students draw eminent speakers to their UK and Ireland conference
Kyaw Swar

 

Among the guest speakers at the student-run event were two honorary fellows of the IOP – the Institute’s president-elect, Professor Dame Julia Higgins (pictured), who spoke on using neutron scattering to understand behaviour in polymeric materials, and Professor Sir John Pendry (below left), who spoke about capturing light at the nanoscale

The IOP’s chief executive, Professor Paul Hardaker, spoke at a gala dinner during the conference, and the IOP’s nations and branches officer, Laura Dunning and staff from the IOP’s education team ran a stand at the event.

Science journalist Alok Jha was part of a panel discussion on “Life after physics”, in which panellists with an academic background who had taken career paths that might not immediately be obvious choices for physicists answered questions from the audience and offered some career tips. The panel included IOP teaching and learning coach Alan Baugh, neuroscientist Professor Peter Latham, science communicator Dr Bryson Gore and art conservator Dr Marina Sokhan.

Physics students draw eminent speakers to their UK and Ireland conference
Kyaw Swar

The programme included a “careers speed dating” event in local cafés and bars in which participants could chat with former physics students who are now academics or professionals to gain careers insights, a tour of the National Physical Laboratory and a tour of world-leading physics laboratories at UCL, with talks by Professor Ewa Paluch on the physics of shape in biology and Dr Nich Achilleos on space missions to giant planets.

Other guest speakers included Professor Jonathan Tennyson, talking on the search for extraterrestrial unintelligence, and Professor Brad Gibson on why physics might make an alien life rare, Professor Gaetana Laricchia on collisions involving antimatter and Professor Steven Bramwell on magnetic monopoles and magnetricity in spin ice.

There were more than 30 talks by students and around the same number presented posters. Nearly 70 students responded to a questionnaire and gave substantial positive feedback to the organising committee, which was chaired by IOP member Lukas Kikuchi with Jade Li, who also serves on the IOP’s Universities Student Network committee, as vice chair. Ana Jejina from the USN gave a brief talk on what the USN does and the events it has organised in the past year.

The conference was sponsored by the IOP, UCL, the University of London and Arista, with BT sponsoring the gala evening.

Physics students draw eminent speakers to their UK and Ireland conference
Kyaw Swar

Kikuchi said: “CAPS is an opportunity for physicists from all over the UK, at various stages in their careers, to connect and learn more about what the world of physics has to offer them. Having worked on this year’s conference for almost a year, the CAPS'17 committee is extremely pleased with all the positive feedback we have received. We hope that all our attendees enjoyed their time at our conference, and that they return for future years. We also wish the best of luck to the CAPS'18 committee.”