Star physics pupil visits Culham

14 July 2011

As part of her Prize for Physics at the Big Bang Fair, Abigail Davies visited Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in Oxfordshire on Tuesday 12 July to learn how researchers are working towards recreating the activity of the Sun here on Earth to create a plentiful, clean fuel source for our future.

Abi, a former pupil at Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester and now a geophysics student at the University of Liverpool, was given a tour of the European JET facility – the largest fusion experiment in the world – and the UK’s own fusion device, MAST.

Abi said, “I’d learnt the basics of nuclear fusion at A-level but seeing the construction of the plant in action was really fascinating.  The researchers have to be so precise and accurate in everything they work on, yet it’s being built on such a huge scale. JET was so much bigger than I had expected.”

As winner of the Institute of Physics’ Prize in the Big Bang Fair for her impressive project, which involved using a school seismometer to show how local sea states also affect seismic noise, Abi received £500 and an exclusive tour around the research site.

Since victory in March, Abi has been continuing her geophysics degree at the University of Liverpool, and says that her success at the Big Bang Fair and this subsequent trip to Culham have encouraged her to continue pursuing a career in scientific research.

Abi said, “I love finding things out that no one has thought of before.  I can’t imagine a more exciting career.”

Abigail fought off stiff competition from 155 other entries to win the prize at the Big Bang Fair – one of the country’s biggest celebrations of science and engineering for young people.

Having received notes of congratulation from senior staff at her University and her home constituency MP, Oliver Letwin, Abi seems set on course for the career of her dreams.

Joana Silva, CCFE Education and Outreach Manager, said, “It was a pleasure to welcome Abi to CCFE and show her around the facilities. It was great to see that Abi was so interested in the scientific process, as we are keen to encourage young people like her to go into a career in physics. It is also very rewarding for us to be involved with the IOP’s Prize for Physics.”

Beth Taylor, Director of Communications at IOP, said, “Visiting the physics projects at the Big Bang Fair this year was a wonderful experience - it was great to see so many keen young competitors but Abi's project stood out for its interesting mix of data collection and interpretation, and for Abi's personal enthusiasm and initiative. 

“I'm delighted she had the opportunity to visit Culham and see the fusion facilities there - this is an area of physics where UK science is genuinely leading the world, and I am very grateful to staff at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy for making her visit possible.”