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PhD studentships available in Centre for Plasma Physics for October 2016 start

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates for a number of PhD studentships awards available within the Centre of Plasma Physics.  Successful applicants should be available to start their projects in October 2016.

More details....

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Queen’s astrophysicists reaching for the stars with UK’s top fellowships

Two young researchers at Queen’s have won the UK’s two most prestigious fellowships for physical scientists in the same year, reinforcing the University’s international reputation for world-leading research in astrophysics.  Dr Neale Gibson and Dr Kate Maguire were awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship respectively, and both chose to bring their posts to Queen’s – out of all the UK’s universities.  Their total funding is close to £1million, which will all be spent here in the Northern Ireland economy. 

The awards will allow the pair, who are both graduates of Queen’s but who have also carried out post-doctoral research at Oxford University and the European Southern Observatory (which hosts the Very Large Telescope in Chile), to continue their pioneering research into exoplanets and supernovae.

Dr Gibson is currently working on the atmospheric composition of ‘hot-Jupiters’ – the biggest, brightest and most inhospitable planets. With next-generation telescopes, he hopes to be able to do the same for ‘Earth-like’ planets, and begin the hunt for habitable worlds outside the Solar System. 

Dr Maguire’s research focuses on a particular type of exploding star that can be seen to great distances in the universe.  Measurement of these supernovae are the best way to measure distances to high precision in the universe; they are key to understanding the mysterious ‘dark energy’ that makes up greater than 70 per cent of the mass-energy of the universe but the origin of which is still unexplained.

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Queen’s researchers in starlight discovery to solve missing water mystery

Queen’s researchers have collaborated with a team of International astronomers to use the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to study the atmospheres of ten hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets in detail - the largest number of such planets ever studied.

The team was able to discover why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected — a long-standing mystery, with their results published today (Monday 14 December 2015) in the Nature journal.

Until now, astronomers have discovered nearly 2000 planets orbiting other stars. Some of these planets are known as hot Jupiters — hot, gaseous planets with characteristics similar to those of Jupiter. They orbit very close to their stars, making their surface hot, and the planets tricky to study in detail without being overwhelmed by bright starlight.

Due to this difficulty, Hubble has only explored a handful of hot Jupiters in the past, across a limited wavelength range. These initial studies have found several planets to hold less water than expected.

Now, an international team of astronomers has tackled the problem by making the largest ever study of hot Jupiters, exploring and comparing ten such planets in a bid to understand their atmospheres. Only three of these planetary atmospheres had previously been studied in detail; this new sample forms the largest ever spectroscopic catalogue of exoplanet atmospheres.

Dr Neale Gibson from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s School of Mathematics and Physics is one of the authors of the study. He said: “Planets are probably the most diverse astronomical bodies in the universe, and outnumber the stars, but until now we have only been able to look at the planets in our own Solar System and a handful of others. For the first time this study reveals the diversity of 'hot Jupiter’ atmospheres, and has enabled us to finally solve a long-standing problem in exoplanet science.”

More .....

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Fully Funded PhD Studentships for the CDT Photonic Integration and Advanced Data Storage

Applications are welcome from UK and EU applicants who have, or hope to have, a 2:1 (or equivalent) in a cognate physical sciences or engineering discipline.  Click here for more information (Programme)

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PhD studentships in the Centre for Theoretical Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics

Project proposals for PhD study in the Centre for Theoretical Atomic Molecular and Optical Physics (CTAMOP) have now been made available through the centre's website. 

The projects span the full gamut of CTAMOP's resarch portfolio, with projects in Quantum information, Atomic physics, Ultrafast Laser-Atom interaction and Antimatter physics on offer. 

Full funding (stipend and tuition fees) would be available for a number of UK nationals or EU nationals who have lived in the UK for over 3 years prior to their application. The closing date for funded studentship applications starting October 2016 is 12 February 2016. Applications for self funded applications can be received at any time. 

The full list of projects- with detailed descriptions- can be found in the postgraduate studies section of the website and from there applications can be submitted online.  We are happy to receive applications from all interested parties.

If you would like to discuss a project with a potential supervisor, contact details can be found in the project descriptions. For general queries about PhD study, please contact Prof Mauro Paternostro.

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2015 Schools Mathematics Competition

Grosvenor Grammar School

Top: St Louis Grammar School. Bottom: Carrickfergus Grammar School

On 4th of December 2015 the annual Schools Mathematics Competition was held in the Great Hall at Queen’s University.  17 schools from right across Northern Ireland took part in the competition.  After three gruelling rounds that tested not only the students’ mathematical knowledge and ability, but also their knowledge of the history of mathematics, the team from Grosvenor Grammar School in Belfast were the winners.  The second place went to St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena, and Carrickfergus Grammar School came third. Congratulations to the winners and to all schools who took part!

The completion was run by the School of Mathematics and Physics outreach team led by Dr Daniel Dundas ( for mathematics.  As well as prizes awarded by Queen’s University, the Mathematics department of the winning school was also awarded a prize of 100 pounds, sponsored by First Derivatives plc.

The photographs show the three winning teams and their teachers, Sam Stevenson from Grosvenor Grammar School, Helen Toal from St Louis Grammar School and John Reid from Carrickfergus Grammar School, as well as Dr Dundas, Director of Education for Mathematics Professor van der Hart and Naoimh O’Keefe from First Derivatives.

The next Schools Mathematics Competition will be held in December 2016.  Please contact Dr Dundas for further information.

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The Vice-Chancellor's Research Prizes

The winners L-R Dr Michael Pierse, Dr David Jess, Professor Chris Scott and Professor Dave Archard with Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry, Compere Claire McCollum and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Patrick Johnston.
The Winners of the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Prizes for 2015 were announced on Friday 20th November 2015 at the Chief Executive’s Club at Queen’s Gala Dinner Ceremony in the Whitla Hall. 

Congratulations to our winners of the Vice-Chancellor's Research below: 

Early Career Research prize - Dr David Jess (School of Mathematics and Physics)


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EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Photonic Integration & Advanced Data Storage

We welcome applications from interested UK and EU applicants who have, or hope to have, a 2:1 (or equivalent) in a cognate physical sciences or engineering discipline. UK and EU nationals must meet the normal EPSRC residency requirements which can be viewed here.

Each studentship covers fees and a maintenance stipend at the current EPSRC rate.  Additionally, CDT students benefit from significant funding for travel and mobility between the institutions as well as to conferences.  Each student also has significant individually tailored research project expenses. 

Although we can only offer fully funded studentships to UK and EU nationals who meet the EPSRC residency requirements we may consider applications from self-funded students.

Please contact Brenda Morris, in the first instance, if you are unsure about your eligibility for funding.

Apply for 2016 entry

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Santander Mobility Scholarships 2015-16

We are delighted to inform you of the launch of this year’s scholarships funded by Santander UK, with the assistance of Grupo Santander to support scholarship and mobility in the context of exchanges between Queen's University and universities within the Santander Universidades Network[1] in UK, Europe and overseas.

Queen’s University Belfast is proud to be a member of the prestigious international Santander Universities network, which brings together almost 1,000 universities, including Spain, Portugal, Latin America and the UK.

This strategic partnership between Queen’s University Belfast and Santander has created a range of opportunities for both staff and students to participate in a range of activities and to encourage exchange and interaction between members of the University and other member universities of the Santander Universities Network. 

To find out more about Santander Universities visit

Application Process and Deadlines

Application forms should be published on each School’s website and student email circulation lists. 

Candidates are invited to apply within their respective Schools by sending a CV and completed application form by email to the relevant Head of School by Monday 14 December 2015.

Applications should be selected at School level by a selection panel, nominated by the Head of School, normally comprising of the Head of School and senior academics, at least one of whom should have responsibility for internationalisation.

School ranking and application materials must be sent to by Friday 8 January 2016.

Following confirmation of nominations from International Office, School offices should inform successful candidates.

Award-holders will be responsible for their own travel and visa arrangements

Award-holders will be required to submit a report to the School on return from their visit.

This is a valuable funding opportunity for Queen’s students, particularly PGT and PGR students, and/or staff interested in international collaborative links with partner institutions in Europe and worldwide.  However, the deadlines are tight and I would greatly appreciate your cooperation in publicising the availability of the awards and in nominating potential recipients. Please see attached application for additional details.

[1]   Santander Universidades Network list:


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Queen's University Belfast lead research milestones in Predicting Solar Flares

An international team of researchers, led by Queen’s University Belfast, has devised a high-precision method of examining magnetic fields in the Sun’s atmosphere, representing a significant leap forward in the investigation of solar flares and potentially catastrophic ‘space weather’. 

Solar flares are massive explosions of energy in the Sun’s atmosphere. Experts have warned that even a single ‘monster’ solar flare could cause up to $2 trillion worth of damage on Earth, including the loss of satellites and electricity grids, as well the potential knock-on dangers to human life and health. The technique pioneered by the Queen’s-led team, published in the journal Nature Physics, will allow greater advance warning of potentially devastating space storms.  The new technique allows changes in the Sun’s magnetic fields, which drive the initiation of solar flares, to be monitored up to ten times faster than previous methods.

Lead researcher, Dr David Jess from Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre said: “Continual outbursts from our Sun, in the form of solar flares and associated space weather, represent the potentially destructive nature of our nearest star.  Our new techniques demonstrate a novel way of probing the Sun’s outermost magnetic fields, providing scientists worldwide with a new approach to examine, and ultimately understand, the precursors responsible for destructive space weather."

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Queen’s University astrophysicists reaching for the stars with UK’s top fellowships

Two young researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have won the UK’s two most prestigious fellowships for physical scientists in the same year, copperfastening Queen’s international reputation for world-leading research in astrophysics.

Dr Neale Gibson and Dr Kate Maguire were awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship respectively, and both chose to bring their posts to Queen’s – out of all the UK’s universities. Their total funding is close to £1million, which will all be spent here in the Northern Ireland economy.

The awards will allow the pair, who are both graduates of Queen’s but who have also carried out post-doctoral research at Oxford University and the European Southern Observatory (which hosts the Very Large Telescope in Chile) to continue their pioneering research into exoplanets and supernovae.

Currently, Dr Gibson is working on the atmospheric composition of “hot-Jupiters” – the biggest, brightest and most inhospitable planets. With next-generation telescopes he hopes to be able to do the same for “Earth-like” planets, and begin the hunt for habitable worlds outside the Solar System.

Dr Maguire’s research focuses on a particular type of exploding star that can be seen to great distances in the universe. Measurement of these supernovae are the best way to measure distances to high precision in the universe; they are key to understanding the mysterious 'dark energy' that makes up greater than 70 per cent of the mass-energy of the universe but the origin of which is still unexplained. 

Professor Stephen Smartt, of Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre in the School of Mathematics and Physics said: “It is a tremendous boost to Queen’s research to have winners of the two most prestigious fellowship schemes in the UK for physical scientists bring their fellowships here. These are highly competitive positions, with the best young scientists from around the world applying every year. The winners of these awards are regarded as the brightest and best scientists around and it is a pleasure to have Kate and Neale chose to host their fellowships at Queen’s. They could have chosen anywhere in the UK, but recognised the high-quality research environment in astrophysics that Queen’s has now built. They will play a key role in making us more internationally competitive with the aim of attracting more international funding and international students to Belfast.”

To learn more about postgraduate research at Queen’s, including details of upcoming open days at Queen’s new Graduate School, please visit:

For further information contact the Queen’s University Communications Office on Tel. 028 9097 5384 or email

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Juno success at IOP awards

Kristina Holsgrove and Dr Solveig Felton (right) with other Juno champions at the 2015 award ceremony

Dr Solveig Felton and Kristina Holsgrove attended the Institute of Physics (IOP) Awards 2015 ceremony in London on 5 November to pick up a Juno Champion Award on behalf of the School.
Project Juno aims to recognise and reward departments that have taken action to address the issue of gender balance in physics in universities.  Queen’s School of Mathematics and Physics has been awarded ‘Champion’ status – the highest of three levels – by the IOP in recognition of efforts to further good practice in relation to women in science.
Dr Felton said: ‘We were delighted to be asked to join the other award winners in London.  It is great that the hard work our colleagues have put in is being recognised.  But we don’t intend to rest on our laurels.  We still have to be careful there are no hidden barriers that might hold back members of staff and students – male or female – from reaching their full potential’.
For further information on Project Juno follow this link.

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Shortlist announced for the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Prizes 2015

VC's Impact Prize 2015Twelve members of staff have been shortlisted for this year's Vice-Chancellor’s Research Prizes for 2015 two of whom are from the School of Mathematics and Physics.  Early Career Research Category - Dr David Jess and Postdoctoral Research Category - Dr Cosimo Inserra.

The winners will be announced on Friday 20 November 2015 at the Chief Executives' Club at Queen’s Gala Dinner Ceremony in the Whitla Hall.  Prizes of £3,000 will be awarded under each of four categories: ECR research prize; Postdoctoral research prize; Research Impact prize; and Research Innovation prize.

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CTAMOP member unveils the thermodynamic arrow of time

Irreversibility is a key concept in physics: the breaking of time-reversal at the macroscopic level - exemplified in a striking way by the second law of thermodynamics - goes against the intuition provided by the intrinsic symmetry of the microscopic equations of motion that govern elementary processes at the atomic scale. So whence does the so called "arrow of time" emerge?

Mauro Paternostro, Professor of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information and member of the Quantum Technology Group at Queen's (QTeQ), as part of an international team comprising researchers at CBPF (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Universidade Federal do ABC (Santo André, Brazil) and the University of Erlangen Nuernberg (Germany), has addressed the emergence of the thermodynamic arrow of time by studying experimentally the non-equilibrium dynamics of a liquid NMR sample driven by time-gated microwave pulses. The team has shown that the process driving an initial equilibrium state of the sample towards a non-equilibrium final state is fundamentally and provably different from the reversed "backward" process: I.E. inverting the sign (direction) of time is definitely not sufficient, as witnessed by the emergence of a thermodynamic entropy associated with such a lack of reversibility.

The study has been published in the prestigious pages of Phys. Rev. Lett., where it has been selected as an Editors' Choice and featured in a "Viewpoint" article , authored by Dr. Alexia Auffeves (Institut Neel, Grenoble).

This is only the most recent outcome of the "Thermodynamics of quantum processes" project conducted at CTAMOP by members of QTeQ, who are leading the European network, TherMiQ. This project has received 2.5M Euros from the EU FP7 to investigate the thermodynamics of mesoscopic quantum systems, a burgeoning field in which CTAMOP is an international leader.

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MathsWeek Ireland Public Talk

MathsWeek Ireland took place this year from 10–18 October.  As part of this, the School of Mathematics and Physics organised a Public Talk on 14 October entitled “Secrets, Lies and Mathematics” by Steve Humble (aka Dr Maths) from Newcastle University.  170 students from across Northern Ireland took part and discovered how maths can be used to predict the future.

Dr Dan Dundas, from the School of Maths and Physics, said, “Mathematics is an important tool for understanding the world around us and provides a way to answer many important questions.  Hopefully this talk, together with other MathsWeek activities, will inspire young people to think about mathematics in a new way.”

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Picture of the Week taken by Prof Stephen Smartt with the Hubble Space Telescope

Picture of the week

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2015 Bates Lectures

CTAMOP is delighted to announce that the 2015 Bates Lectures will be given by Prof. Mikhail Ivanov (Max Born Institut Berlin).   Prof Ivanov is a world-leading figure in the field of ultrafast intense laser science, where he developed new computational methods to probe light-matter interactions at their fundamental level, all the way down to atto-second dynamics.

The Bates Lectures are aimed at students and staff members in the School of Mathematics and Physics to provide insight into important topics in the Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics area. They are delivered on a yearly basis by an eminent scientist usually nominated by the staff members at CTAMOP.

The schedule, venue, and topics of this years Lectures are as follows:

Tuesday 22 September 2015 at 15:00–16:00 (room DBB.01.006)
"Ionization in strong laser fields and tunnelling times"

Wednesday 23 September 2015 at 11:00–12:00 noon (room DBB.01.006)
High harmonic generation and high harmonic spectroscopy of sub-femtosecond dynamics  I 

Wednesday 23 September 2015 at 15:00–16:00 noon (room DBB.01.006)
High harmonic generation and high harmonic spectroscopy of sub-femtosecond dynamics  II

You are all cordially invited to the Lectures, whose attendance is free. PhD students are particularly encouraged to attend and participate actively.

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IRCEP10: Celebrating a Decade of IRCEP

The International Research Centre in Experimental Physics (IRCEP) will mark its tenth anniversary with a celebratory event on 25 September 2015.

From the installation of a Terawatt laser, through the investigation of new techniques for treating cancer, to the establishment of spin-out companies, it has been a busy decade for IRCEP.  And with a major refurbishment coming up, as well as improvements to some of the facilities, there will be no let-up in the pace!

Launched in 2005 to coincide with the opening of a state-of-the-art laboratory complex, IRCEP has provided a platform for cutting edge research across a range of areas, from plasma physics to the study of nanostructured media; and scientists working in these areas have been able to work in close contact with specialists in areas like quantum mechanics, atomic simulation and electron microscopy – to say nothing of sharing a building with a thriving Astrophysics Research Centre.

Much of this research has been made possible by the top-flight facilities in IRCEP.

Scientists working in the Centre for Plasma Physics (CPP), for instance, have been able to exploit the high intensities of the TARANIS laser, one of the most powerful university-owned lasers in the world, to dig deep into the properties of ionised matter.  This work has had an impact not just on fundamental physics, but also in developing areas such as ion beam cancer treatments.  And given that TARANIS has just been awarded funding for a high-level upgrade, the team is excited about future possibilities in the field.

The laser facilities represent just one of the areas in which IRCEP researchers are producing cutting edge science.  The development of spin-out companies is another area in which IRCEP has excelled.

The wealth of expertise built up by the Centre for Nanostructured Media (CNM), another of IRCEP’s core clusters, has borne considerable commercial fruit.  ANSIN, founded in 2009 puts the specialist knowledge and equipment of the CNM team to work in the development of new advanced materials in conjunction with industry partners.

The recently founded Causeway Sensors company has developed highly sensitive nanostructured devices for detecting and identifying proteins and gases, with a potentially broad range of public and commercial applications.

Dr Brendan Dromey, Director of Impact for the School, said: ‘IRCEP in its first ten years has given us a focal point for great research, and has attracted many students as well as top quality researchers from across the world to come and work with us.  We see this tenth anniversary, and the forthcoming refurbishment of the building, as a chance to broaden out in collaboration with new partners’.

A full programme of events will take place in IRCEP itself on Friday 25 September. 


9 September 2015

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What makes a planet habitable? by Chris Watson

Scientists are looking for more rocky worlds that could possibly retain liquid water on their surface

Water in liquid form is thought to be a necessity for life on Earth

Naturally, some say that life may flourish under other conditions, and perhaps even in the absence of water.

While that may be true, take a look around - life seems to do quite well here on Earth and we've yet to find it elsewhere in our Solar System.

Based on this, let's look at the classical definition for the habitable zone as the region around a star, such as our own Sun, where the temperature of any orbiting planet permits water in liquid form.

Astrophysicists are extremely good at calculating the temperature of a star and then, taking into account the distance of a planet from its host star, it is easy to work out the planet's "equilibrium temperature".

The starlight (in our case, sunlight) that falls onto the planet is reradiated as heat and, hey presto, we have our actual planet temperature - simple. Except it isn't.

More ....

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NSS 2015 - 95% Overall Satisfaction Score in Mathematics and Physics

In the 2015 National Student Survey, 95% of final-year students agreed that they were satisfied with the Mathematics and Physics programmes offered by the School of Mathematics and Physics. This percentage is well above the UK average of 90%. This score reflects the outstanding commitment to education and student development by staff in the School of Mathematics and Physics.

The QUB programmes in Mathematics and Physics rank amongst the top programmes in the Russell Group of 24 leading research-intensive universities: the Mathematics programme ranks 2nd in satisfaction score, while the Physics programme ties for 4th.

The NSS focuses on 6 main categories: teaching, assignment and feedback, academic support, organisation, learning resources and personal development. The excellent overall satisfaction score is reflected in the scores for these categories. The Mathematics programme rated above the UK average in all 6 categories, whilst the Physics programme was rated at or above the UK average in 5 out of 6 categories.

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The HARPS-N project (with Dr. Chris Watson as UK-CoI) has identified a multiple-planet system consisting of 4 worlds orbiting a naked-eye star in the constellation of Cassiopeia.  Follow-up with NASA’s Spitzer spacecraft revealed the innermost planet to transit the star. HD219134b turns out to be a rocky planet, with a radius just 60% larger than our Earth.  At just 21 light years away, this makes this both the closest known transiting exoplanet found, as well as the closest known rocky planet outside of our own solar system.

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Honorary Graduate - Professor Peter Higgs CH, DSc for services to science

Professor Higgs with Mathematics and Physics graduation class 2015

One of the world’s most revered and ground-breaking scientists was honoured at the School of Mathematics and Physics graduation ceremony on Tuesday 7 July for his services to science.

Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist, Professor Peter Higgs, is renowned for his pioneering work which predicted the Higgs boson particle. 

After gaining a PhD in Physics from King’s College London, Professor Higgs published two breakthrough scientific papers in 1964 offering explanations for how fundamental particles obtain their mass – due to the effects of the Higgs field and Higgs boson particle. Using this pioneering research, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN found the Higgs boson in 2012. 

Professor Higgs, who has won a host of accolades for his work, was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on 8 October 2013.  He was appointed a Companion of Honour in the New Year’s Honours 2013.

Speaking about the awarding of a DSc for services to Science, he said: “I am thrilled to be given this accolade from Queen’s University, a world class institution, with such a fine heritage, that is renowned for its high calibre physics research. I am looking forward to sharing this special occasion with those students who will be graduating on the same day and will be the bright young minds of the future.”

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Join 'The Conversation'

In May, Queen's was ranked in the top 10 in the UK for articles published and total readership of The Conversation.  Here is one of the most recent articles:

We have just started work on the technology to power a Star-Trek style replicator by Dr Gianluca Sarri from the Centre for Plasma Physics.


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RIA Honours

Professor Matthew Zepf, Director of the Centre for Plasma Physics, is among 19 leading Irish scholars to receive the honour of being named as a new member of the prestigious Royal Irish Academcy (RIA) - Ireland's leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities.

Professor Zepf is also Director of the Helmholtz Institute in Germany, leading a group that continues to pioneer studies of the interaction between short pulse lasers and matter.

Founded in 1785, membership of the RIA is the highest academic honour in Ireland.  Members include President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, Baroness Nuala O'Loan and Patrick Honohan, Governor of the Central Bank.



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Are Comets the Givers and Takers of Life? - Royal Irish Academy 2015 McCrea Lecture

You are cordially invited to the Royal Irish Academy 2015 McCrea Lecture, being held at QUB.

Are Comets the Givers and Takers of Life?
Professor Monica Grady CBE, Faculty of Science, The Open University
Friday 26th June, 7pm in the Larmor Lecture Theatre

Professor of Planetary and Space Science at the Open University, Monica Grady was part of the Rosetta science team at mission control when the landing of the Philae space probe occurred.  In her talk she will introduce the topic of comets and explain why some people think they may have led to life on Earth and possibly its destruction through mass extinctions. S he will also give personal account of the Rosetta Mission, her involvement in it, and report on some of its latest results.

There is no attendance fee, but as we expect this public talk to be very popular we are requesting all people who will attend to register at the following website:

We Look forward to seeing you there.

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Dr Solveig Felton, Soapbox Science

On Saturday the 20 June, Dr Solveig Felton from the Centre for Nanostructured Media in the School of Mathematics and Physics, will be getting on a soapbox to talk about her research on frustrated magnets in the Belfast Botanic Gardens.  This is part of Soapbox Science in Belfast, a 'Speaker's Corner' styled outreach event, where 13 female scientists will try to capture the public's interest with engaging talks and demonstrations of their research.  The whole event takes place from 2 pm to 5 pm at various locations in the Botanic Gardens; you can catch Dr Felton in front of the Kelvin statue between 4 pm and 5 pm.

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A poster by CTAMOP PhD students won first prize at Queen's Postgraduate competition

Niall Tyndall receiving the prize from Prof J McElnay

Great news from the Postgraduate Poster Competition 2015 at the newly launched Postgraduate School: The poster submitted by CTAMOP PhD students won first prize in both the Faculty and University categories!

Congratulations to Matteo Brunelli, Lorenzo Fusco, Sam Law, Andrew Swann, Niall Tyndall, and Jack Wragg for the fantastic work and the great result.  And, of course, congratulations to all the other PhD students at CTAMOP, whose work was presented in the poster.  This is a clear acknowledgement of excellence of our students.

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QUB Visit to Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam

Prof Bill Graham and Dr Jim McCann, from the School of Mathematics and Physics, will be visiting Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam from 21 June to 4 July 2015.  If you are interested in studying within Queen's University please get in touch with us and we can arrange a visit.

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Cloudy mornings and hot afternoons: Tracking weather on alien worlds

May 12, 2015 – “Cloudy for the morning, turning to clear with scorching heat in the afternoon.”

While this might describe a typical late-summer day in many places on Earth, it may also apply to planets outside our solar system, according to a new study by an international team of astrophysicists.  This includes Dr Ernst de Mooij at Queen's University Belfast, along with others from the University of Toronto and York University.

They used measurements by the Kepler Space Telescope of six exoplanets orbiting stars hundreds of light-years away, to forecast their daily weather cycle. Using these sensitive observations, the researchers have uncovered evidence of daily weather cycles on these planets from the light variations at different phases. Such phase variations occur as different portions of these planets reflect light from their stars, similar to the way our own moon cycles though different phases.

More ...

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Mathematics student selected to participate in prestigious Washington-Ireland Programme

Joanna Singleton, a Second Year Mathematics student and winner of two Queen’s Entrance Scholarships, will be travelling to Washington this summer as part of the prestigious Washington Ireland Program.

The Washington Ireland Program for Service and Leadership is a programme of personal and professional development that brings outstanding university students from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to Washington D.C. for summer internships and leadership training.

It aims to build the next generation of leaders committed to achieving a peaceful, stable and prosperous future for both countries.

More ....

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Professor Ali Alavi, FRS

Professor Ali Alavi, a former member of the Atomistic Simulation Centre (ASC) at Queen’s University Belfast has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society, joining the exclusive body of approximately 1600 members, that includes 80 Nobel laueates.

Prof. Alavi studied for his undergraduate and then for his PhD at Cambridge University, supervised by Prof. Ruth Lynden-Bell FRS, another distinguished former member of the ASC.  He joined QUB as a lecturer in 1995 and was promoted to Reader in 1999, moving to the University of Cambridge soon after.  There he rapidly climbed the ranks to establish himself as Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, and in 2014 he was nominated Director of the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart (Germany).

Ali Alavi is distinguished for his highly original contributions to the computation of electron correlation effects in atoms and molecules.  His idea of using Monte Carlo sampling of Slater Determinants constitutes a breakthrough as it circumvents the Fermion sign problem.  He developed efficient algorithms (FCIQMC) for this, which enables the accurate treatment of larger systems than could be handled by any earlier method.  He has applied the technique to outstanding quantum chemical problems.  He has also contributed to the study of reaction mechanisms on surfaces and developed a finite-temperature density-functional method which proved particularly useful for metals and metallic surfaces.

Ali will be visiting QUB this July to celebrate the 20 years of the ASC, together with Profs Mike Finnis, Ruth Lynden-Bell, and Tony Paxton.


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Prof Alexander Dalgarno

The School of Mathematics and Physics sadly reports the death of Prof Alexander Dalgarno FRS.  Prof Dalgarno, who passed away on the night of 9th April 2015, initiated his academic career in 1951 at Queen’s University Belfast, where he remained until 1967, working with Prof Sir David Bates FRS until 1967 when he moved to Harvard as a Professor.

During his career, which spanned over 60 years, Prof Dalgarno made fundamental contributions to theoretical atomic and molecular physics, theoretical chemistry, scattering theory, and atmospheric physics.  He pioneered the field of molecular astrophysics.  For his work, he was awarded numerous prizes, including the Royal Society Hughes Medal, the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics.

The School of Mathematics and Physics joins the numerous colleagues and friends of Prof Dalgarno to express the most sincere condolences to his family.

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Tyndall Collaboration secures €1m for Nano-GaN

A major research partnership involving institutes in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US has secured €1m in funding to develop new ways of harnessing converted electricity.  The Nano-GaN Power Electronic Devices project will seek to improve the efficiency of converting electrical power by up to 25pc.  The project, which involves Tyndall National Institute, Queen’s University Belfast and the Illinois institute of Technology, has the potential to have a global impact across the entire power electronics industry.  Dr Miryam Arredondo-Arechavala, from the School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen’s University Belfast, is involved in the partnership.

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Belfast physicist wins silver medal at House of Commons
L to R: Philip Diamond IOP, Elena Andra Muntean QUB, Andrew Miller MP, Stephen Benn Soc of Biology

Elena Andra Muntean, a research fellow in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University Belfast, won the silver medal in the physics category of the SET for Britain 2015 competition at Westminster.

Her presentation of her research on dust and ice, and the birthplace of new molecules in interstellar space as a result of low-energy ion irradiation, won her a prize of £2000. She said: “I am so pleased that the research we do at Queen’s University Belfast was highly appreciated at this competition in the House of Commons and really look forward to taking my success back to my research group.”

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A day of stargazing at Queen's

Queen’s will hold a day of public events on Friday 20 March to celebrate the largest Partial Solar Eclipse to be seen from Northern Ireland in many years.

A special Eclipse Watch event will take place at the front of the Whitla Hall from 8.15am – 10.45am followed later in the day by a Jupiter Watch event from 7.00pm – 10.00pm, near the War Memorial, Lanyon Building.

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Teaching Partnerships with China

A team from the School of Mathematics and Physics is currently visiting China from 16-20 March 2015.  They will be visiting several prestigious Chinese Universities to discuss and formalise establishing partnerships in study abroad programmes.


Dr Ying-Fen Lin, Dr Fumin Huang, Prof Ian Williams and
Prof Bill Graham (Internationalisation Leader)

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Financial Maths student to represent Queen’s in Dubai

Fynn McKay, second year Financial Mathematics,  is representing Queen’s
on Team Apex in Dubai at the International Case Competition sponsored by KPMG.

Fynn helped lead the team to winnng the all-island competition in Dublin in February 2015.
When Fynn is not jumping out of planes, he spends his time scrunching numbers and
equations on the Financial Mathematics degree.

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Physics at Queen's ranked 3rd for research intensity in United Kingdom's Research Excellence Framework exercise.

Physics at Queen's University has been ranked 3rd in the United Kingdom's Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise, out of  a total of 41 submissions, based on research intensity tables published by the Times Higher Education.

In addition, Mathematical Sciences and Chemistry at Queen's have both been ranked in the top 20 in research intensity.

Research intensity takes into account not just the grade point average (GPA) of the REF submission, but also the fraction of eligible staff returned. Details of the methodology used to derive the research intensity index may be found at the Times Higher Education website, while the research intensity tables are provided here:

THE research intensity tables

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Queen’s University Belfast to play a leading role in building the world’s biggest solar telescope

Queen's University is part of a consortium of eight UK universities and businesses to build the cameras for the 344 million US dollars (£226m) super-telescope, which will be situated on a mountain in Maui, Hawaii.

The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope (DKist) will be launched in 2019 and is being constructed by the US National Solar Observatory.

Its four-metre diameter main mirror will allow the telescope to pick up unprecedented detail on the surface of the sun - the equivalent of being able to examine a £1 coin from 100 kilometres away, scientists behind the project said.

Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis said: “DKist will be a revolutionary instrument for ground-based solar physics, which is a growth area in the UK. It will be in a position to explore key questions regarding solar magnetic field generation and dissipation, solar variability, atmospheric structure and dynamics.


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Queen’s University Belfast in ground-breaking research to discover new planets

Scientists from Queen’s University Belfast have partnered with leading astrophysicists across Europe for a ground-breaking space research project that will form a crucial step in the quest to study small, rocky planets orbiting other stars and discover new planets.

The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) has achieved first light at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Paranal Observatory in Chile, and will reach a level of accuracy never before attained under observatory conditions. A suite of highly sensitive telescopes – parts of which have been manufactured in Belfast – will search for 'transiting exoplanets’ which are planets that pass in front of their parent star and hence produce a small, periodic dimming of that star’s light. Only a few such very delicate observations have ever been made, but NGTS should provide many more opportunities.

NGTS will focus on discovering Neptune-sized and smaller planets, with diameters between two and eight times that of Earth, that orbit relatively nearby bright stars - making detailed follow-up of the planets possible. The NGTS data will flow into the ESO archive system and will be available to astronomers worldwide for decades to come.

Designed to operate in robotic mode, the Paranal site will continuously monitor the brightness of hundreds of thousands of stars in the southern skies and should reach a level of accuracy — one part in a thousand — that has never before been attained with a ground-based wide field survey instrument.

One of those involved, Dr Christopher Watson from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “This is a truly exciting time and a major coup for Queen’s. NGTS will not only discover a whole host of new planets, including 'super-Earths' a little larger than our own planet, but some of these will be amongst the best planets with which to perform more detailed investigations. Are we looking at a rocky, terrestrial-like planet? What are their atmospheres like? It was not so long ago that answering such questions was unthinkable - NGTS discoveries will keep us occupied for many years."

Belfast-based Andor Technology, a spin-out company from Queen’s University and now a multinational with offices in China, Japan and the USA, has provided the scientific camera equipment at the Paranal site. These cameras are specially modified versions of the iKon-L 4 Megapixel CCD, combining additional near infra-red sensitivity with a capability to accurately quantify signal ranging from bright to extremely weak. Product Manager for scientific cameras, Dr Colin Coates said: “This is great for our company and great for Belfast. We have been supplying detectors to this prestigious consortium for several years, during which time Andor has become a very strong solution provider to the broader astronomy community.”

Professor Stephen Smartt, Director of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s said: “Being part of this novel and ground-breaking project reflects Queen's global standing in astrophysics research. There is potential to make some remarkable discoveries with this system. The School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's was recently placed 3rd in the UK physics departments in the Times Higher REF 2014 rankings for research intensity while the university as a whole was ranked in the top ten for research intensity. Our research scientists are making an impact in international projects and it’s tremendous to see Belfast-made detector technology at the heart of these machines."

This is the first private facility to be installed on Paranal. ESO already operates the Very Large Telescope (VLT) – the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory – at the site. The discoveries of NGTS will be studied further using other larger telescopes, including the VLT. In particular, it may be possible to probe the atmospheres of the exoplanets whilst they are in transit. At this time some of the star’s light passes through the planet’s atmosphere, if it has one, and leaves a tiny, but detectable, signature.

Along with Queen’s University Belfast, the NGTS Consortium is composed of academics from the University of Warwick, UK; the University of Leicester, UK; the University of Cambridge, UK; Geneva University, Switzerland; and DLR Berlin, Germany.

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QUB-China Scholarship Council Joint Awards: 2015

A maximum of ten studentship places for QUB-China Scholarship Council awards will be funded for 2015-16. 

This year’s QUB-CSC information is now live on the QUB website under International Scholarships - Queen’s University/China Scholarship Council PhD Scholarships 2015.

We have currently linked from the International Scholarships page and from the Your Country-China page (under Scholarships).  Candidates are required to complete a QUB-CSC scholarship application form in order to aid identification of those Chinese candidates who wish to be considered for joint funding.  This form can be downloaded from the QUB website.  This is part of the application process and therefore candidates are required to complete this as well as their PGR online application form by the specified deadline of 30 January 2015.  As in previous years, candidates are expected to make contact with individual Schools to discuss their proposed projects prior to application.

It should be noted that whilst our guidance indicates the required minimum academic qualifications are normally an undergraduate Bachelor degree with a high average and a Master’s degree with an average of 75%-80%, we do mention that applicants who do not have a Master’s degree, but who hold very high grades in an undergraduate Bachelor degree may be considered on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the relevant School.  We should bring to your attention that two of our eight successful QUB-CSC students for 2014 entry were accepted on the basis of very strong Bachelor degree profiles (and had not undertaken any postgraduate study).  These two students are currently enrolled in PhD studies in the School of Medicine, Dentistry & Biomedical Sciences, and the School of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering.

For any queries with regard the QUB-CSC process, please contact either Admissions or the International Office.   Any admission-related enquiries please direct to Julie Tomes (; and any general enquires from applicants about the QUB-CSC process, please direct Monica Yang ( in the International Office in the first instance.

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6th Annual Maths Competition for Schools

Grosvenor Grammar win 2014 Maths Competition




22 schools from across Northern Ireland took part in the 6th annual Maths Competition for Schools on 3 December.  Congratulations to Chris Purdy, David Thompson, Ryan Simpson and Paul Pruzina from Grosvenor Grammar in Belfast who battled through several difficult rounds of questions to emerge as this year’s winners.

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ARC student, Aaron Reid, named amongst brightest and most innovative in the world

Six Queen's University students named 'brightest and most innovative in the world'

Six students from Queen’s University Belfast have won an international award for being the brightest and most innovative in the world.

The students, who were this week announced as winners in The Undergraduate Awards, were selected from nearly 5000 submissions from over 200 universities worldwide.

The Undergraduate Awards, which are now in their fourth year, aim to give recognition to the brightest and most innovative undergraduate students in the world, and those who are leading creative thinkers, problem solvers and future leaders.

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The Fourth Dimension and Salvador Dali

Tom Banchoff in conversation with Salvador Dali in 1975



Professor Tom Banchoff

Department of Mathematics

Brown University, USA


Wednesday 15 October 2014

1.30pm – 2.30pm

Room 0G/007, Peter Froggatt Centre

Queen’s University Belfast




Artist Salvador Dali was fascinated by mathematics and science and he featured topics like the fourth dimension and catastrophe theory in his paintings. In this talk, Professor of Mathematics Tom Banchoff describes his discussions and mathematical encounters with Dali over more than a decade.

Register online for this event at


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Cloudy Summer School 2014

A very successful Cloudy Summer School was held in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University Belfast from 18-22 August 2014.  This was the first European-based Summer School and provided a good opportunity for people in the UK and EU to attend at a relatively low cost. The workshop was oversubscribed and participants (pictured below) travelled from as far afield as the USA, South Africa, Europe, India and South America.  The content of the Summer School covered the basics of spectroscopy, with an emphasis on emission-line regions such as star-forming regions, AGB stars, Active Galactic Nuclei and Starburst galaxies, and the intergalactic medium.  Each session consisted of a mix of textbook study, application of the spectral-simulation code Cloudy to a variety of astrophysical problems, and projects organized by the participants.


The workshop was run by Prof Gary Ferland from the University of Kentucky who is on a years sabbatical at QUB working alongside Prof Francis Keenan of the Astrophysics Research Centre and Dr Cathy Ramsbottom from CTAMOP.  Due to popular demand a Winter School, already oversubscribed, is scheduled for 12-16 January 2015.


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Physics means business

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between researchers in the QteQ group (School of Mathematics and Physics) and Hughes Insurance has been named as the NI Regional Winner in this year’s KTP Awards, held last week (Thurs, 25 Sept) in The Merchant Hotel.

Speaking about the award, Hughes’ Chief Executive, Gareth Brady, said: “Hughes Insurance has been working closely with Jim McCann at Queen’s for the last three years to develop new ways to improve our customer contact activities. The KTP was hugely successful for us, embedding new technology and expertise in our business, and contributing to a 4.5 per cent increase in customer retention figures.”

“We found that ideas from entropy in complex systems theory can be used to search for patterns in customer data” said Dr McCann.  “This simplifies the data in a scientific way and provides customers with the product they need.”

Recognising the success of Queen’s in this year’s awards, Dr Mary Flynn, Head of KTP and Business Networks at Queen’s, added: “I am delighted to see so many of our Partnerships being recognised for their hard work and commitment. Queen’s is where business begins and it is now, more than ever, that businesses need to think of new ways to stay ahead of the competition. Our KTPs at Queen’s enable them to do that by giving unrivalled access to the world-class research and technology available here."

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Queen’s and NASA join forces in major international investigation into ‘solar flares’

A major new collaboration between the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) at Queen’s University Belfast and American space agency NASA is set to investigate ‘solar flares’ and their potential to cause disruption here on Earth.

Essentially explosions in the Sun’s atmosphere, solar flares result in significant increases in ultra-violet radiation. While the physics behind this phenomenon is still unknown, the increased UV radiation and the associated solar storms can disrupt radio communication and GPS, with potentially dangerous knock-on effects for a range of activities including air-traffic control and search-and-rescue missions. Solar storms can also be associated with the visual spectacle known as the Northern Lights which is caused by charged particles streaming from the Sun.

More ......

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Free Public Talk - "Heavy Elements from Giant Red stars"

Thursday 24th July, 19:30, Ulster Museum

Dr. Amanda Karakas, from Mt Stromlo Observatory (Canberra, Australia) in collaboration with the Elements Exhibition will present a talk on,

"Heavy Elements from Giant Red Stars"


The origin of the elements is intimately tied to the lifecycle of stars. In this talk, Amanda will take you on a journey through the life and times of stars to tell the story of how chemical elements were created. She will focus on the intriguing mystery of the production of heavy elements in stars, that is, elements heavier than iron. In particular, Amanda will explain the behaviour of Sun-like stars during their advanced red-giant stage of evolution, and show how they play a key role in solving this puzzle.

Amanda is an internationally recognised expert on the study of stellar evolution and astrophysical nucleosynthesis. She holds a Future Fellowship at the Australia National University. This public talk is a collaboration between the Ulster Museum Elements exhibition and the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast, where Dr. Karakas will making a research visit in July 2014.



The lecture will take place in the Lecture Theatre on the ground floor of the Ulster Museum. This is a free event - to secure your place book online at the Ulster Museum website or ring 028 9044 0000.

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Graduate and Student of the Year 2014

Anita Sands

Clare Scullion

The Graduate and Student of the Year Awards, now in their 14th year, were launched by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) and the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office, with the support of First Trust Bank.

The Awards aim to recognise excellence, achievement or service by Queen’s alumni and students, either to the University or to the wider community. The student winner receives a trophy and £500 while the graduate winner receives a trophy.

Graduate of the Year

Anita Sands, who now lives in New York, holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in atomic and molecular physics from Queen's. She is a former Fulbright Scholar, has a music qualification from London School of Music and was All-Ireland Public Speaking Champion in 1994.

Originally from just outside Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ms Sands joined the board of software company, Symantec Corp (based in Mountain View, CA) in October 2013. She previously served as Group Managing Director, Head of Change Leadership and a member of the Wealth Management Americas Executive Committee of UBS Financial Services. She joined UBS in October 2009 as a Transformation Consultant before becoming Chief Operating Officer, then Head of Change Leadership.

In 2007, when Ms Sands was at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), she was appointed as the youngest ever Senior Vice President in the history of the company.

Student of the Year

Clare Scullion is currently undertaking a PhD in Physics, expecting to graduate for a second time from Queen’s in 2016.

An exemplary student, Clare is being recognised for her leadership within Queen’s Ladies Gaelic Football Club, for setting up “TanzaniAID” – a unique volunteering project using science to help some of the poorest young people in the world – and for her involvement in a Women In Physics Event at Queen’s, which addressed the lack of females in physics.

In support of TanzaniAID, Clare recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and took part in the Belfast Marathon, raising over £10,000 to fund and install solar panels in a school in Tanzania. And, as part of her 300 volunteer hours this year, she also supports undergraduate teaching by delivering weekly tutorials and workshops within her faculty to help younger Queen’s students.

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CTAMOP congratulates Professor Alan Hibbert MBE

Professor Alan Hibbert, Deputy Chair Management Committee, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and Emeritus Professor at CTAMOP has been appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to Astronomy (Carrickfergus, Antrim).

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CTAMOP Professor elected as Fellow of APS

Graphical representation of the escape of one and two electrons from the He atom in free-electron UV laser fields as obtained by codes developed within CTAMOP

Professor van der Hart of the Centre for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics has been elected as Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS).  Professor van der Hart was nominated by the APS Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics for innovative theoretical developments in the field of multi-photon processes, particularly in the context of ultra-short laser pulses, and for their successful application in the solution of problems involving electron-electron interactions.

Professor van der Hart has been a member of staff at Queen's since 1999.  His primary research interest is to understand how atoms behave in state-of-the-art light fields.  Over the last 15 years, great progress has been made in the generation and application of ultra-short light pulses, with the aim of visualizing and eventually guiding the motion of electrons inside atoms and molecules.  Funded by EPSRC and the EU, Professor van der Hart and co-workers have developed new theoretical methods to study this motion computationally in atoms.  The key characteristic of their method is that no approximation is made to the interaction between particles.  This unique approach therefore allows the full atomic dynamics to be investigated in detail.

The main criterion for election to APS Fellowship is "exceptional contribution to physics enterprise", such as outstanding physics research.  Each nomination is evaluated by the Fellowship committee of the appropriate Division, and reviewed by the full APS Fellowship Committee.  Fellowship status is limited to at most one-half of one percent of membership.

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STFC Exhibition - Seeing the Universe

Where and when

Please join us in the Great Hall, Lanyon Building, on the main Queen's campus. The exhibition is open Saturday 17th May to Saturday 24th May inclusive, 10am to 4pm each day. Entrance is free and no booking is required for the main exhibit.

Note that there is no car parking available directly on the campus before 4pm on weekdays, and parking on-street may be limited, however it is possible to park on-campus for the evening events. Queen's is well served by the 7 and 8 Metro bus routes, and is only a few minutes from Botanic railway station. If you're not familiar with the area we have some information on getting to Queen's.


About the exhibition

The exhibition features stunning science images and interactive exhibits, including:

  • Scale models of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), The James Webb Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory.
  • Hands-on exhibits including seeing the invisible, adaptive optics and micro autonomous robots
  • An interactive control desk providing details on the full spectra of wavelengths used by astronomers
  • An 8 metre interactive wall featuring an 'astronomical wow facts' screen, interactive touchscreen and a large 3D screen.
  • Historical science papers from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) & the Thomas Harriot trust

The exhibition will be manned by astronomy students and young researchers from Queen's, explaining the exhibits and answering any questions.


Evening events

There will also be three evening events free of charge, please go here for more details and booking.

Please note there were problems with the booking form on Friday. This is now resolved but please feel free to turn up, we will find you a seat!

  • Saturday 17th May, 7:00pm. ”Seeing stars: science and education with big telescopes” - public lecture by Professor Paul Roche (University of South Wales). Larmor Lecture theatre, main campus, Queen's University Belfast.
  • Tuesday 20th May, 7:00pm. ”Ask an Astronomer” event - public question and answers with astronomers from the QUB Astrophysics Research Centre. Canada Room, Lanyon building, main campus, Queen's University Belfast.
  • Thursday 22nd May, 7:00pm. ”The last and the next 100 years in astronomy” - public lecture by Dame Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burnell (University of Oxford). Larmor Lecture theatre, main campus, Queen's University Belfast.


Lunchtime lectures

Each lunchtime from Monday 19th to Friday 23rd Dr. Robert Ryans of the Astrophysics Research Centre will be giving one of his entertaining lectures on The Science of Sci-fi Weapons. There are four lectures and a different one will be given each day, each lasting about 35 minutes. Lectures will be held at 1pm in the Bell Lecture Theatre in the Main Physics Building, no booking is necessary.




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Queen’s student awarded Seagate Technology Bursary

Queen’s physics student, Thomas Fyfe, who is from Ballymena, has been awarded the Seagate Technology Bursary.

This Bursary, which launched last year, is awarded to one student studying a MSci Physics at Queen’s with a value of over £7,000 over three years. In addition to the annual payments and book supplements offered by the scholarships, there is also the opportunity for real-life research and development experience through three paid summer internships with significantly enhanced career prospects after graduation.

Thomas is currently in his second year at Queen’s University studying for a Master’s degree in Physics and he has a particular interest in the field of Nanotechnology. 

On receiving this bursary, Thomas said: “The Seagate bursary is a fantastic opportunity for me to work for a global leader in the design, manufacturing and marketing of Hard Disc Drives. During my summer placements of 2014 and 2015 I hope to gain invaluable practical experience working as part of a team at the cutting edge of Hard Drive Technology. For me, the Seagate bursary will provide an excellent foundation for my future career as a Physicist.”

Professor Francis Keenan, Head of the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s emphasised the important partnership between academics and industry: “Queen’s University is committed to improving the employability of our graduates and the School of Mathematics and Physics are very grateful to Seagate for this bursary. Our links with Seagate are very important to us, and this award provides an opportunity for our undergraduates to work with one of the leading companies located in Northern Ireland.  I wish to congratulate Thomas on receiving this award.” 

Damien Gallagher, Executive Director of Engineering from Seagate who presented Thomas with the award, affirmed his support for the scheme: “Seagate is delighted to continue our collaboration with the Physics Dept. at Queen’s. The future success of our industry-leading Springtown facility is dependent upon the supply of high calibre science and engineering graduates. I am sure that the 2014 recipient, Thomas Fyfe, will enjoy his association with Seagate and will develop skills to complement his studies at Queen's.” Thomas will continue to study for his Masters in Physics with his first summer internship starting this June at Seagate.



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SET for Britain poster competition at the Houses of Parliament

Two young researchers from Queen's have been selected to showcase their work at the Houses of Parliament as part of SET (science engineering and technology) for Britain 2014.

Dr Andrew Brown is a newly appointed lecturer in theoretical physics and Matt Nicholl is a second year PhD student in astrophysics.  Both are from the School of Mathematics and Physics and were chosen from hundreds of applicants to appear in Parliament at the competition in March.

SET for Britain is a poster competition in the House of Commons which is judged by professional and academic experts.  The annual event gives MPs an opportunity to engage with a wide range of the country's best young researchers.

Dr Brown's research concerns the theory of ultrafast electron dynamics in laser atom interactions, and his poster 'Watching electrons move- 
ultrafast dynamics in multielectron atoms' draws on his doctoral research at QUB.  Mr Nicholl's poster discusses his recent paper in Nature on the nature of the brightest supernovae in the Universe. Both posters have been entered into the Physics section of the competition.

This years success for Andrew and Matt follow on the back of another two Queen's researchers who were selected for the competition last year.  Dr Gianluca Sarri, also from the School of Mathematics and Physics, and Roberto Caporali, an industrial research student in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, both participated in last year’s competition.



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New Editor in Chief of Plasma Sources Science and Technology


Professor Bill Graham (CPP) is the new Editor in Chief of Plasma Sources Science and Technology


Institute of Physics Publishing has appointed Bill Graham, from the Centre of Plasma Physics at QUB, as Editor in Chief of the premier low temperature plasma physics journal, Plasma Sources Science and Technology.


He will be responsible for ensuring that the work published in the journal is of the highest standard and reflects the interest of those working at the forefront of international research in the subject.

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Hamilton Prize 2013

On Wednesday October 16th 2013, the Royal Irish Academy again presented awards to students of Mathematics in nine of the Higher Education Institutions in Ireland.  Each mathematics department were invited to nominate its "best" student in the penultimate year of undergraduate mathematical studies.  The recipients of the Hamilton Award in Mathematics received a scroll and a cheque for €250 generously sponsored by Arup. Fergus Monaghan, Director in Arup speaking at the prize giving ceremony said “Arup is delighted to support the RIA and the Hamilton lecture series.  We recognise that graduates are key to our future, in particular in the fields of Science and Mathematics.  Arup is happy to recognise and support this year’s award winners’.
Amongst the winners was Queens University student Victoria Coome.
This event formed part of Hamilton Day activities at the RIA which celebrate Hamilton’s life and contribution to mathematics and usually take place on or around October 16th, the anniversary of the day Hamilton scratched his fundamental formula for quaternion multiplication on Broome Bridge in Dublin.


Hamilton Prize 2013

                 Caption: L-R Mr Fergus Monaghan, Arup; Sir Roger Penrose;
                               Ms Victoria Coome, QUB; Professor Luke Drury, RIA


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New PRL featured in APS Physics Viewpoint and APS Editors’ Suggestions

A paper reporting the first experimental demonstration of entanglement distribution without the use of any entanglement has been published in Phys. Rev. Lett. by CTAMOP visiting student Miss Margherita Zuppardo, and CTAMOP member Dr Mauro Paternostro. The paper, which is the result of aninternational collaboration involving the University of Queensland (Australia), Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and the Quantum Technology group at Queen's 

[] is the long-awaited experimental proof of a counter-intuitive feature of general quantum correlations in multipartite quantum sustems.  It hopens up the way to quantum communication schemes that, contrary to naive expectiations, do not require fragile entangement to establish reliable quantum channels.

A. Fedrizzi et al. Phys. Rev. lett. 111, 230504 (2013)  The article has been selected by the Editors of Phys.Rev. Lett. as a prestigious “Editors’ Suggestion” and featured for an authoritative'Physics Viewpoint' authored by Prof. Christine Silberhorn (University of Paderborn).Remarkably, this is the second Letter in a row from the Quantum Technology group to be selected as an Editors' suggestion!



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Maths Competition 2013

First place team: Methodist College Belfast. In photograph from left to right: Dr Gleb Gribakin, David Hopkins, Niall Devlin, Chris Cox, Jackson Riley and Dr G Murphy

Over 100 A-level Mathematics students from schools throughout Northern Ireland took part in the fifth annual Mathematics competition on 6 December in the Great Hall.  Teams representing 26 schools battled their way through several rounds of tough questions set by Dr Stanislav Shkarin and other mathematicians from the School of Mathematics and Physics.  The final scores were extremely close, with Methodist College, Belfast winning first place just ahead of Belfast Royal Academy and Dalriada, Ballymoney. Prizes for first, second and third place from QUB together with an additional prize for the winning team, sponsored by Newry software company First Derivatives Plc, were presented by Dr Gleb Gribakin, Associate Director of Educationfor Applied Mathematics, Theoretical Physics and Statistics and Operational Research.

Dr Gribakin said, "It is great to see so many students here today.  They represent the next generation of mathematicians in Northern Ireland and we hope that events like this will further strengthen their love of mathematics.  The location for the event adds additional inspiration this year as the portraits of Sir Joseph Larmor and Sir David Bates, two eminent mathematicians and scientists, overlooked the students throughout the competition."

The organiser of the competition, Dr Daniel Dundas from the School of Mathematics and Physics, said “The ability of students taking part in the competition always impresses us.  Even though we made the questions more difficult this year the teams rose to the challenge and performed really well: the students and their teachers should be really proud of themselves.”

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Queen's astronomer in 'starring' role in BBC's Horizon programme

A leading Queen’s University Belfast astronomer is featuring in the BBC’s Horizon programme this weekend, in an episode devoted to a very special comet currently in the sky above Northern Ireland.

In Comet of the Century: A Horizon Special on BBC 2 at 9.15pm tomorrow night (Saturday 23rd November), Professor Alan Fitzsimmons will be explaining why comet ISON is so important to science, and how it might appear to sky watchers in early December.

Professor Fitzsimmons, said: “Comet ISON was discovered last year, and astronomers quickly realised that it was a one-of-a-kind comet. It has never been around the Sun before, but on November 28th it will pass just over a million km above its surface. The intense heat may reveal aspects about comets we have never before discovered.”

More ...

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Queen's Maths students take part in Maths in the City

Sophie Halliday (left) and Brendan Reid (second right), 4th year maths students at Queen's University Belfast, were at hand to help Bubbiz the Maths Clown at Maths in the City at Belfast's Victoria Square, the grand finale of MathsWeek Ireland 2013. Also pictured is Eoin Gill (right) MathsWeek Ireland co-ordinator from Calmat at Waterford Institute of Technology

Matthew (7) and Molly (3) Doubleday from Glengormley enjoyed the fun at maths in the City at Belfast's Victoria Square, the grand finale of MathsWeek Ireland 2013. They are pictured with Eszter Surgenor and Emmet Ó Garmaile, 2nd year maths students at Queen's University Belfast.


Five maths students from Queen's (Laura Boyle, Sophia Halliday, Emmet Ó Garmaile, Brendan Reid and Eszter Surgenor) took part in Maths in the City at Belfast Victoria Square in Saturday 19 October, the grande finale of MathsWeek Ireland 2013.  Shoppers were entertained by maths magic, card tricks, mazes and music performed by international maths magicians, buskers and clowns led by a team of experts from MathsWeek Ireland.  The students had a great time helping the public to complete the puzzles and mazes and explaining the properties of tetrahedra using balloon modelling!


Over 170,000 people took part in MathsWeek Ireland (12-20 October), the annual festival which encourages everyone to take a fresh look at maths.  Throughout the week primary and secondary school pupils, along with the general public, took part in activities designed to stimulate their interest and build their confidence in maths.


Dr Dan Dundas, from the School of Maths and Physics, said, "It's great to see mathematics being showcased away from the classroom and in such a fun and accessible way.  Hopefully these activities, together with the enthusiasm shown by our students, will inspire the next generation of mathematicians, scientists and engineers".

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Queen's scientists shed new light on star death
Credit: ESO/L.Calçada
Credit: ESO/L.Calçada

Astronomers at Queen’s University have shed new light on the rarest and brightest exploding stars ever discovered in the universe.

The research is published on Thursday (17 October) in Nature Magazine – one of the world’s most prestigious science publications. It proposes that the most luminous supernovae – exploding stars – are powered by small and incredibly dense neutron stars, with gigantic magnetic fields that spin hundreds of times a second.

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Von Engel & Franklin Prize to Professor Bill Graham

Bill Graham presenting his von Engel and Franklin Prize Lecture on 'Thoughts on the Future of Low Temperatures Plasmas" at the XXXI ICPIG in Granada, Spain, 2013


The von Engel & Franlkin Prize is awarded biennially by the International Scientific Committee of the International Conference on the Physics of Ionised Gases to an individual for work in the field of physics and technology of plasmas and ionized gases, recognising either long standing and important contributions to the field, or an outstanding achievement giving a new impulse to the field.

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Researchers to investigate the mysteries of quantum thermodynamics

Researchers in the School of Mathematics and Physics have been awarded a grant to investigate the mysteries of quantum thermodynamics.

The Quantum Technology Group at Queen’s (QTeQ) has received a £350k grant from the John Templeton Foundation to investigate the reformulation of quantum mechanics at medium-to-large scales.  The Foundation is a philanthropic organisation that funds interdisciplinary scientific research on "Big Questions".

The Principal Investigator is Dr Mauro Paternostro, Reader at the Centre for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (CTAMOP) and EPSRC Fellow with Dr Gabriele De Chiara and Dr Alessandro Ferraro, both Lecturers in Quantum Information at CTAMOP, co-investigators of the grant.

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Mentor of the Year Award

Laura Boyle, the lead mathematics mentor, won the Mentor of the Year award in the QUBSU Education Awards ceremony on 25 April 2013.  Congratulations to Laura on this fantastic achievement.  Mentoring is one of the most important activities within the School and her efforts (and those of her colleagues) have been absolutely first rate.  Within the School we greatly value and appreciate her work and it is extremely pleasing that this has now been recognised at University level.

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Young researchers take their science to Parliament

Dr Gianluca Sarri from the School of Mathematics and Physics took part in SET in Britain 2013 in the Houses of Parliament

Two young researchers from Queen’s have showcased their work at the Houses of Parliament as part of SET for Britain 2013.

Dr Gianluca Sarri, 29, a newly appointed lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics and Roberto Caporali, an industrial research student in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, were chosen from hundreds of applicants to appear in Parliament.

SET for Britain is a poster competition in the House of Commons which is judged by professional and academic experts. The annual competition gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. 

Dr Sarri’s research about the recent progress on ultra-intensity lasers technology and applications was entered into the Physics section of the competition.

Speaking about the experience, Dr Sarri said: “SET for Britain is a unique opportunity to make my own research known to a wider audience, and to engage with politicians regarding the fundamental issue of scientific research and development in the UK. It is also a great chance to get a wider perspective on cutting edge research by sharing thoughts with other brilliant scientists and engineers from the whole country.”

Roberto’s research was featured in the Engineering section of the competition. Roberto, a PhD student in the Centre for the Theory and Application of Catalysis, is working with Johnson and Matthey, a world leading chemical company, to develop a new type of diesel oxidation catalyst.

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Northern Ireland Maths Students Divide and Conquer

On Friday 7 December over 100 A-level Mathematics students from schools throughout Northern Ireland took part in the fourth annual Schools Mathematics competition organised by Queen’s University Belfast.  Teams representing nearly 30 schools battled their way through several rounds of tough questions set by mathematicians from the School of Mathematics and Physics.  The final scores were extremely close, with St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon winning first place just ahead of Belfast High School in second and Methodist College Belfast in third.  Queen’s University donated prizes for first, second and third place teams and there was an additional prize for the winning team, sponsored by Newry software company First Derivatives Plc.

The prizes were presented by Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry. Congratulating the students on their achievements, the minister said: “It is refreshing to be here today to witness so many young people enjoying the challenges set by the mathematicians at Queen’s University.  The pupils have shown tremendous ability during the various rounds of the competition.

"Maths and STEM subjects have a fundamental role to play in many sectors of the economy.  My Department works closely with employers in engineering, manufacturing, financial services and ICT, to name but a few, who repeatedly tell us how central mathematics is to their business.  Sectors such as these will be key to the future growth of the Northern Ireland economy.  They have the potential to provide quality career opportunities and so it is vital that our young people equip themselves with the right skills now, to be able to take advantage of these opportunities in the future.”

The organiser of the competition, Dr Daniel Dundas from the School of Mathematics and Physics, said, “The ability of students taking part in the competition every year always impresses us. This is a real credit to the students and their schools but it means it’s more of a challenge to set the questions!”

Elizabeth O’Hanlon from First Derivatives said, “It is incredible to see so many enthusiastic and passionate students embracing the QUB mathematics challenge. First Derivatives Plc are very proud to support this fantastic competition as it is students like these which we consider to be the driving force behind the growth of Northern Ireland’s Financial services.”

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NCU-Delta (Taiwan) Young Astronomer Lectureship Award

This award recognize scholars under the age of 45 who have made outstanding contributions in the field of astronomy or astrophysics.  

The National Central University (NCU) and Delta Electronics Foundation are pleased to establish the NCU-Delta Young Astronomer Lectureship Award to recognize scholars under the age of 45 who have made outstanding contributions in the field of astronomy or astrophysics. The award is made through an academic visit to Taiwan to foster interactions with the local astronomer community and to stimulate young minds by public lectures.

The prize, bestowed by Dr. Bruce Cheng, President of Delta Electronics, carries a round-trip airfare to Taiwan, an honorarium, and a commemorative plaque. Each awardee is expected to spend at least two weeks in Taiwan, giving a colloquium at NCU and a public lecture in a high school designated by the Delta Foundation. Candidates are suggested by the Nomination Committee without regard to sex, race, or nationality, and the finalists are chosen by the Review Committee. Subject to sponsorship funding, it is expected that 2-3 candidates will be awarded annually.

The autumn 2012 recepient of this award is Professor Stephen Smartt, Astrophysics Research Centre.



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Queenʼs Quantum Physicist wins Business Leadership Award

David Sandford of the QteQ (quantum technology group) in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's has won a Business Leader of Tomorrow award from the Technology and Strategy Board.


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The sun has got its spots on - will this bring a bright outlook?

An astrophysicist at Queen’s University Belfast has been reading the pattern of sunspots and solar cycles, writes Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor, Irish Times.

We could be in for some improved winter weather over the coming years, according to Dr Ryan Milligan. He’s a 36-year-old Queen’s University astrophysicist who was formerly based at Nasa – and who, in his spare time, does road haulage work, just to keep his hand in.

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IOP awards in London recognise Galway and Belfast physicists

Professor Colin O’Dowd from NUI Galway and Professor Colin Latimer from Queen’s University Belfast have both been presented with prizes at the Institute of Physics (IOP) annual awards in London.  At the awards ceremony last Wednesday, Professor Latimer received the Phillips award in recognition of his service to the IOP.  He has been professor of physics at Queen’s since 1997, while he has also taught at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and at Tokyo Metropolitan University in Japan.  His research interests are in the areas of atomic and molecular processes and interactions.  Professor Latimer has served in many roles with the IOP, including acting as treasurer of the institute and chair of the Atomic and Molecular Interaction group and the Institute of Physics in Ireland (1980-89).

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ANSIN reaches major milestone


ANSIN reaches major milestone

Cathy Hill, a PhD student working with Seagate Technology planning her next set of experiments to develop advanced magnetic shielding for magnetic recording heads. The materials are created by layering different materials each only a few billionths of a metre thick. Cathy's work is now being evaluated in Seagate.

A conclave hosted by Queen’s and Seagate Technology has been described as a major milestone for ANSIN, the £7.5 million international research hub.

Two years on from the establishment of ANSIN at Queen’s, the University and Seagate jointly hosted Seagate Technology’s European Data Storage Technology Conclave for the first time. The research meeting brought together over 100 participants, including the research team at ANSIN, senior management and staff from Seagate Technology, academics from leading UK, European, Japanese and US laboratories and key vendors supporting Seagate Technology in their R&D and manufacturing operation at Springtown.

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Royal Irish Academy honours for leading Queen's scholars

Four of Queen’s academic staff have been admitted as new Members of the Royal Irish Academy. Professors Liam Kennedy, Aaron Maule, John McGarvey and Stephen Smartt were among only 22 academics on the island of Ireland to achieve this highest academic distinction.

For 227 years, membership of the Royal Irish Academy has been keenly competed for, as it is the highest academic honour in Ireland and a public recognition of academic achievement.
Members of the Academy include: Seamus Heaney, Frances Ruane (ESRI), Mary Robinson, Patrick Cunningham (ESOF Dublin 2012), Maurice Manning (NUI Chancellor), Patrick Honohan (Central Bank), Mary Canning (HEA) and writer and cartographer Tim Robinson.

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Published in Nature: Pan-STARRS discovers star shredded by supermassive black hole

Astronomers from Queen’s University Belfast have gathered the most direct evidence yet of a supermassive black hole shredding a star that wandered too close. The Queen’s astronomers are part of the Pan-STARRS international team, whose discovery has been published in the journal Nature today (Wed, 2 May).

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New directions for EPSRC research leaders
Dr Mauro Paternostro has been awarded a grant under the "New directions for EPSRC research leaders" initiative by the UK EPSRC.  The award is to enable EPSRC’s leading researchers to explore new avenues of research with a view to further enhancing their future career opportunities.  The grant secured by Dr Paternostro, which is worth 200k GBP and the extension of his Career Acceleration Fellowship until March 2014, will allow the Quantum Technology group at Queen's (, working on quantum information science, to appoint a postdoctoral research fellow and a research assistant and will provide the group with travel and equipment money.  The award is further evidence of the excellence of the research at Queen's performed in the field of quantum information processing and quantum many-body physics and reaffirms the leadership of Dr Paternostro in these areas.

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CTAMOP member Laura Mazzola awarded prestigious Marie Curie fellowship

Dr Laura Mazzola was awarded a prestigious two-year Marie-Curie Intra-European fellowship from the European Union, starting from April 2011, to work in collaboration with Dr Mauro Paternostro on "quantum thermodynamics".

Recently the quantum information community has started investigating fundamental  questions on the ultimate size and efficiency of thermal engines at the level of few atoms.  Do quantum correlations, for example entanglement, play a fundamental role in the thermodynamics of quantum mesoscopic systems? Laura will tackle these and other exciting questions during her fellowship at QUB.

Laura joined QUB in 2011.  She was awarded her PhD from the University of Turku in 2010, after working on open quantum systems with Dr Sabrina Maniscalco and Dr Jyrki Piilo.

For further information visit the QTeQ website.

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MultiHy consortium met in Belfast 16-18 April 2012

Delegates at the MultiHy meeting which passed off well

Press Release issued on 16 April 2012

A consortium of eleven industrial and academic partners has been established to develop modern computer simulation methods. The aim is to render new high strength steels and nickel alloys resistant to failure due to hydrogen damage.  These alloys are intended for application in light weight motor car bodies, satellite-carrying rockets and modern powerplant equipment, especially off shore wind turbines.  The remit of the consortium, funded with 5.3m euro through the EU‚Äôs 7th Framework Programme and partner contributions, is to address three industry led case studies.

One is the optimisation of the pulse-plating process used in the fabrication of the nickel combustion chambers of the Ariane 5 satellite launcher; another is preventing hydrogen embrittlement in advanced high strength steels designed for future automobile chassis components and the third is minimising rolling contact fatigue in next-generation wind turbine bearings.

The automotive industry is still missing current EU targets in carbon dioxide emissions by up to 35 gram per kilometre.  While modern steels have been designed that can meet this requirement through reduction inweight, steel producers are aware of the increased risks of hydrogen embrittlement which can accompany steels with higher tensile strengths.  A similar problem affects the bearings of offshore wind turbines and again there is an urgent need to come to terms with the issue and present some solutions to industry.

Until now, scientists undertaking the computer modelling of the underlying phenomena have concentrated on a particular "length-scale", somewhere between atomistic and component-level finite element simulations.  "We now want to carry through computer simulations at all length scales from atoms to entire components," says the project coordinator Dr Nicholas Winzer of the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM.  The influence of microstructure of alloys on their design lifetime can thereby be investigated and new materials developed. The automobile, aerospace and energy industries will directly benefit and in particular in the realm of renewable energy.

During heat treatment, mechanical working, sheet drawing and coating processes, fine cracks appear which render the metal unstable under load.  The guilty party here is atomic hydrogen that moves rapidly within the metal crystal lattice collecting at dislocations and grain boundaries where it wreaks its havoc, resulting in so called "hydrogen embrittlement".  As cracks grow under load to a critical size, so the component fails.

Using multiscale modelling, experts can take into account all the facets of the microstructure in a variety of materials.  "With our modelling we can predict precisely how susceptible an alloy or a component is to hydrogen embrittlement under realistic conditions," says Dr Matous Mrovec the coordinator of the atomistic simulations.  Atomic information such as diffusion barriers, activation energies and trapping sites can now be used directly to predict component lifetimes under particular service conditions. In association with the computer modelling, experimental studies to characterise the engineering materials will be made by the industrial partners.

At Queen's University, the Atomistic Simulation Centre (ASC) in the School of Mathematics and Physics is leading the effort to bridge the length scales between the atomistic and the continuum modelling.  "With the advent of supercomputers, theoretical physics is now able to bring practical solutions directly to Industry," says Professor Anthony Paxton of the ASC.

Recently Queen's University invested 200,000 pounds in the build of a new computer room which houses the ASC's half a million pound investment in supercomputer systems.  The new facility has the benefit of state of the art negative pressure water cooling.  Our supercomputers are being heavily used in our new researches into the simulation of dynamical processes taking place when hydrogen is introduced into steel.

Now the School of Mathematics and Physics is hosting the first annual meeting of the Consortium on 16-18 April and we are pleased to welcome our European Partners to Belfast.

BMW group
Fraunhofer IWM
ASTRIUM, an EADS company
SKF Group
voestalpine Stahl GmbH
Universidad de Salamanca
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe
The National Physical Laboratory
Swansea University
Norwegian University of Science and Technology


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Mathematics student wins Centenary Gold Medal
Students rewarded for academic excellence


Receiving her Queen’s Centenary Gold Medal from William Crawley and Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie is first year mathematics student Michelle McGlone.  Michelle was the best performing student in the Leaving Certificate and was also awarded a STEM Scholarship

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Queen’s scientist to lead €2.3M hunt for Universe’s first exploding star
Professor Stephen Smartt

A Queen’s University scientist has been chosen to lead an international €2.3million hunt to discover how the first chemical elements were created in the Universe.

Professor Stephen Smartt, Director of the Astrophysics Research Centre in the School of Maths and Physics will begin a five year research project in April to examine how chemical elements were created in the Universe and try to find the first ever supernovae, or exploding stars, in the Universe.

The grant, awarded by the European Research Council, is regarded as the most prestigious research grant in Europe for funding Science and Social Sciences.

More information.

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PhD student awarded prestigious grant

A PhD student in the Astrophysics Research Centre in the School of Mathematics and Physics has been awarded a grant for her work which could improve the chances of detecting Earth-like planets in the future.


PhD student awarded prestigious grant


PhD student Heather Cegla has been awarded a prestigious Grant-in-Aid of Research from Sigma-Xi

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Mathematics problems are no problem for Northern Irish Schools!

Friday 2nd December saw the Annual Mathematics Competition at Queen's University Belfast.  Teams from 28 Schools battled their way through several rounds of tough questions set by mathematicians from the School of Mathematics and Physics.  The organisers Dr Dan Dundas and Dr Stanislav Shkarin said "We were extremely impressed with the knowledge and effort shown by all the students competing."

The final scores were extremely close, with Belfast Royal Academy winning first place just ahead of Methodist College and Royal Belfast Academical Institution.  The competition was sponsored by Citigroup and First Derivatives, who employ many mathematics graduates from Queen's each year.  The winners received their prizes from Anna Lo, MLA for South Belfast.

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CTAMOP Prof Philip G Burke, CBE, FRS, MRIA awarded the 2012 Will Allis Prize

Emeritus Professor Phil Burke, has been recently awarded the prestigious Will Allis prize from the American Physical Society "for pioneering and sustained theoretical development of R-Matrix computational methods for electron-atom and electron-molecule collisions important in modeling ionized gases and plasmas".

Prof Burke obtained his PhD in theoretical nuclear physics at University College London in 1956 and worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory Berkeley and at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment Harwell before being appointed Professor of Mathematical Physics at Queen's University of Belfast in 1967, where he led research in theoretical atomic, molecular and optical physics.

As well as being a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society and the European Physical Society.

See this link for more information.

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CTAMOP member Andre Xuereb awarded prestigious Research fellowship

Dr André Xuereb was awarded a prestigious three-year fellowship from the Royal commission for the Exhibition of 1851, starting from November 2011, to work in collaboration with Dr Mauro Paternostro on "nonlinear optomechanics".  The young field of optomechanics studies the interactions between light and the motion of small objects such as nano and microfabricated mechanical structures. This work is intended to find new avenues to enforce and expose the quantum-mechanical nature of these systems and build up quantum-empowered sensors for position and motion that will beat the performance of the best of their classical counterparts.

André joined QUB after working as a post-doctoral researcher at Leibniz University in Hannover.  He was awarded his PhD from the University of Southampton in 2011, after working with Dr Tim Freegarde.

See this link for more information.

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New degrees in Mathematics and Physics for students with an eye on the money!

From 2012 the School will be offering new BSc Degrees in Mathematics with Finance,  and Physics with Financial Mathematics.

BSc/ MSci and PhD graduates in Mathematics and Physics are particularly valued for their modelling and problem-solving abilities, leadership qualities and technical skills (particularly software development).  Globally, the big investment banks all have their quota of physicists and mathematicians, or 'rocket scientists' as they are affectionately known, and the City alone is recruiting at least 100 young PhDs every year.  Increasingly, other institutions - high-street banks, financial regulatory bodies, consultancy firms, building societies and insurance companies - are also employing people with a rigorous training in mathematics and physics.

The financial services industry in Northern Ireland employs over 23,000 people.  Large global employers such as Citi, NYSE Technologies, Allstate Corporation, Liberty Mutual, Fidessa, PWC, Mercer and Polaris and so on, have important technology groups well established here.  There are huge opportunities for Northern Ireland to compete internationally and to harness its resource of top-class mathematical, analytical and computational skills.

The new courses have been designed with input from industry and NI companies such as First Derivatives and aquaQ to ensure that graduates will be highly employable in these areas.

Of course, possessing a Physics or Mathematics degree from a Russell Group University such as Queen's is a valuable asset in its own right.  So many of the individual courses taken by students at Queen's will involve studying general mathematics and physics, from vector fields, complex analysis  and statistics to atomic and nuclear physics.  This will ensure the maximum flexibility for our graduates in the job market.

Professor Ian Williams, Director of Education said "This is a fantastic new opportunity that we are pleased to offer students.  The degrees have been created to be intellectually stimulating for students with an eye on the future, both scientifically and financially".

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Royal Society Research Fellowship awarded at the Astrophysics Research Centre

Dr Justyn R Maund has been awarded a Royal Society Research Fellowship for research in the Astrophysics Research Centre.

The prestigious fellowship provides five years of funding for Maund's project to examine how some stars end their lives in explosions called Supernovae.  By studying the stars that will explode as Supernovae and the geometries of these explosions, his project aims to determine the nature of the underlying explosion mechanism of these events and identify the extreme physics involved.  This project will use some of the most advanced astronomical facilities, including the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Prior to coming to QUB, Dr Maund was a post-doctoral scholar at the Dark Cosmology Centre in Copenhagen, University of California Santa Cruz and the University of Texas Austin.

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Queen's hails its Nobel prizewinning partners

Queen’s astrophysicists have been among the first to congratulate two of their global partners on the award of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics.  Professor Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University and Professor Adam Reiss of Johns Hopkins University have been honoured for their discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.

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NYSE Euronext 'C' opportunity for Physics Students

Front row, Matthew Mulhern, 4th year physics student, Tony McManus, Global Head of Enterprise Software, NYSE Technologies, David Kane, 2nd year physics student, and Donald Henderson, Chief Technology Officer, NYSE Technologies, Back row: Tom Field, Physics Lecturer, QUB, Glenn McClements, Research and Development Manager, NYSE Technologies and Ian Williams, Director of Education, Maths and Physics: Inset, Rebecca Allen, 3rd year Physics student


Queen's University Belfast is proud to announce that three of its physics students have been rewarded for their programming skills in the computer language C by NYSE Technologies, who have a  centre of excellence in Belfast.  NYSE Technologies is a division of NYSE Euronext, a leading global operator of financial markets and provider of innovative trading technologies. 

Two students, Rebecca Allen and David Kane, have been awarded scholarships and Matthew Mulhern was awarded a prize for his third year C physics project, which involved quantum mechanical calculations with the Shooting Method.  These awards include opportunities for the students to work in the Research and Development Team at NYSE Technologies, led by Glenn McClements.

"Two common themes to programming in physics and financial trading software are speed and the need to handle large volumes of information efficiently" noted Tom Field, who taught these students C programming in Physics at Queen's.  "We are delighted with the opportunity to work with NYSE Technologies". 

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School flies with Athena Swan Award

The School of Mathematics and Physics has obtained a Bronze Department Athena SWAN award, one of ten UK science, engineering and technology departments to be recognised in the 2011 Athena SWAN Charter awards.  The School's submission was coordinated by Dr Adele Mrshall, who chaired the self-assessment team.

Further details.

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Public Lectures in astronomy start off with a bang!

Over 300 people came to Queen's this summer to hear the first in a series of Public Lectures in Astronomy. Sponsored by Dr. Michael West, their aim is to allow the public and schoolchildren to hear about the latest discoveries by the world-leading scientists that are making them.  In the first lecture Professor Reinhard Genzel from the Max Plank Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics wowed the audience with an explanation of black holes and how he finds them.  He showed how his research had proven the existence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way. More dangerous were the subjects of the talk by Dr. Robert Jedicke from the University of Hawai'i, who finds asteroids that can impact our planet in the future.  Pictures are (from left to right) Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chanecllor and President of Queens' University, Prof. Reinhard Genzel, Dr. Michael West and Dr. Robert Jedicke.

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GCSE students get a taste of University science

50 students from across Northern Ireland took their minds off their impending GCSE exam results last week by attending 3-day Summer Schools in Mathematics and Physics. All planning to do A-Levels in these subjects, they were introduced to subjects ranging from cryptology and working in more than 3-dimensions, through to quantum physics and measuring the expansion of the Universe. "While it is crucial that schoolchildren learn the fundamentals of their subjects at school, we like to encourage them in that process by showing them where it can lead to" said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons. Apart from their scholarly activities, the students also enjoyed team sports, science quizzes and a tour of Queen's.

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The sky's the limit for astronomical lectures at Queen's

This summer sees the first in a new series of lectures at Queen's University where the public can learn the truth behind tales of monstrous black holes and dangerous asteroids, from international scientists who are leading the work.

The Michael West Public Lectures in Astronomy will be held each year to explain some of the latest and most exciting discoveries in the world of astronomy. They are named after Dr Michael West, a graduate of Queen's who is supporting scientific research and public outreach in the University’s Astrophysics Research Centre.

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Research collaborations aim for the stars

Researchers from Queen’s and Vanderbilt University in Nashville are aiming for the stars with a number of new research collaborations.

Visits by Professors Stephen Smartt and Don Pollacco from Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre and Professor Keivan Stassun from Vanderbilt to their partner institutions have initiated several research projects and led to the first joint science papers.

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Theoretical Physics student wins national award

A Queen's PhD student with a 'quest for understanding and passion for physics' has won a national award for his research.

Dermot Green from the Centre for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics in the School of Mathematics and Physics was awarded the Rosse Medal by the Institute of Physics (IoP) in Ireland.

The medal, which is awarded to the winner of the postgraduate student poster competion, commemorates the 34d Earl of Rosse, Sir William Parsons, Irish astronomer and builder of 'Leviathan', the largest 19th century reflecting telescope, in Birr, Co Offaly.

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Queen's scientists train in technology to treat cancer and strengthen security

Scientists at Queen’s University are playing a key role in a new, national centre of excellence to train the next generation of researchers in technology which could improve cancer therapy and strengthen homeland security.?

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Double grant success for CPP

Above left and right: The TARANIS laser is a £2M facility capable of delivering two intense laser pulses to either of two separate experimental areas.

The Centre for Plasma Physics has won two grants from EPSRC in February 2011, worth a total of £2.1M. 

The first of these is a platform grant led by Prof Ciaran Lewis with Profs Marco Borghesi, Dave Riley, Matt Zepf and Drs Brendan Dromey and Michael Geissler as co-investigators.  The grant of £1.4M will underpin high intensity laser-plasma research on the TARANIS laser for 4 years.

The second grant, led by Prof Riley with the same group of colleagues as co-investigators is for £0.7M and is a responsive mode grant to support work on XUV interaction with warm dense matter.

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PAMSOC enjoys stargazing trip to Donegal

20 students from the Physics and Mathematics Society (PAMSOC) enjoyed 2 nights at the Aras Ghleann Cholm Cille Hostel in Donegal.  There they enjoyed fantastic views of Saturn, double stars and star clusters.  Daytime was spent enjoying the warmth of our nearest star with a mixture of frisbee, rounders, archery and swimming.

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Scientists' 'space mission' to unlock secrets of the Universe

Scientists at Queen's have won almost £2 million in grants for a range of world-leading projects to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

The astronomers - who are all based in the University's Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) - have been awarded £1.8 million from the Science and Technolog Facilities Council (STFC).


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Queen's Astronomers Awarded for Planet Discoveries

Prof Don Pollacco accepting the award

The Royal Astronomical Society has awarded Prof Don Pollacco (Astrophysics Research Centre)  and the SuperWASP team the 2010 Group Achievement Award for Astronomy.  The team has so far announced the discovery of 26 planets orbiting other stars, and continues to search for more.  The SuperWASP team is a collaboration between Queen's and 7 other academic institutes  to search for these distant worlds, and operate clusters of cameras in the Canary Islands and South Africa.  The award was accepted by Don Pollacco on behalf of the team at the 2010 National Astronomy Meeting in Glasgow.

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Queen's scientists focus on revealing hidden mysteries of the universe

Secrets of the Universe are to be revealed as a new telescope equipped with the world’s most powerful digital camera begins its observations of the night sky.

The Pan-STARRS sky survey telescope – known as PS1 – will enable scientists to better understand the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, the material that is thought to account for much of the mass of the universe but has never been proven to exist. Astronomers from Queen's University Belfast and the Universities of Durham and Edinburgh, together with researchers from around the world, are using the telescope to scan the skies from dusk to dawn each night.

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EPSRC Fellowship awarded at the Life-Science Interface

Dr Chris Calvert has been awarded an EPSRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for Research at the Physics/Life-Science interface.

In a three year research project entitled 'Next generation techniques for analysis of biomolecular systems', Chris will be investigating the application of femtosecond laser technology to studies of biomolecular structure and dynamics.

The research will be carried out using ion-storage devices and ultrafast light sources in the Centre for Plasma Physics (QUB) and at laboratories in Dublin City University and Aarhus University.

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FP7 Grant in Astrochemical Surface Science Awarded

FP7 Award for QUB Scientists

Prof Tom Millar (Astrophysics Research Centre), Dr Tom Field and Professor Bob McCullough (Centre for Plasma Physics) were recently awarded over 400k euros from the EU as part of an international collaboration to create an International Training Network under the FP7 programme.  The ITN, called LASSIE (Laboratory Astrochemical Surface Science in Europe), has been awarded some 6.1m euros to address issues of relevance to the chemical evolution of the Universe.


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Meredith Grieve's Presentation

Queen's Student wins Hamilton Prize

Queen's undergraduate, Meredith Grieve, has won the 2009 Hamilton Prize as the best Mathematics student in her penultimate year at Queen's. 

The Hamilton Prizes are awarded each year by the Royal Irish Academy to recognise exceptional achievement in the field of Mathematics.  The award is made each year on 16th October, the day on which Hamilton in 1843 discovered the correct formula to turn the quaternions into a division algebra. 

Meredith received her certificate and the prize of 1000 euro at the annual Hamilton Lecture in Dublin.

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