Archive for March 27, 2017

Data-Intensive Physics and Astrophysics

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , , , on March 27, 2017 by telescoper

One of the jobs I’ve got in my current position (which is divided between the School of Physics & Astronomy and the Data Innovation Research Institute) is to develop new teaching activities, focussing on interdisciplinary courses involving a Data Science component. Despite the fact that I only started work developing them in September last year the first two such courses have been formally approved and are now open for admission of new students to begin their courses in September 2017. That represents a very fast-track for such things as there are many hurdles to get over in preparing new courses. Meeting the deadlines hasn’t been easy, which is largely why I’ve been whingeing on here about workload issues, but we’re finally there!

The two new courses are both at Masters (MSc) level and are called Data-Intensive Physics and Data-Intensive Astrophysics and they are both taught jointly by staff in the School of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Computer Science and Informatics in a kind of major/minor combination.

The aim of these courses is twofold.

One is to provide specialist postgraduate training for students wishing to go into academic research in a ‘data-intensive’ area of physics or astrophysics, by which I mean a field which involves the analysis and manipulation of very large or complex data sets and/or the use of high-performance computing for, e.g., simulation work. There is a shortage of postgraduates with the necessary combination of skills to being PhD programmes in such areas, and we plan to try to fill the gap with these courses.

The other aim is to cater for students who may not have made up their mind whether to go into academic research, but wish to keep their options open while pursuing a postgraduate course. The unique combination of physics/astrophysics and computer science will give those with these qualifications the option of either continuing or going into another sphere of data-intensive research in the wider world of Big Data.

We’ll be putting out some official promotional materials for these courses very soon, but I thought I’d mention them here partly because it might help with recruitment and partly because I’m so relieved that they’ve actually made it into the prospectus.

 

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Tim Garland Electric Quartet

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on March 27, 2017 by telescoper

Time for  a quick report on a superb concert I attended on Friday evening, at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, by the Tim Garland Electric Quartet. I don’t get to hear anything like as much live jazz as I would like to, but did manage to get my act together in time for this one.

The band consisted of Tim Garland (tenor & soprano saxophones and bass clarinet, Jason Rebello (keyboards), Ant Law (acoustic and electric guitars) and Asaf Sirkis (drums and other percussion). Although named the ‘Electric Quartet’ it turned out to have a larger acoustic component than I expected, because Jason Rebello had clearly taken a shine to the splendid grand piano that had been provided and did much of his work on that rather than the synthesizers and other electronica he had brought with him. I think the music we heard therefore had a different flavour from similar concerts they have been doing around the country, echoing the words of Shelly Manne (about jazz musicians): “We never play anything the same way once.”

Here’s a little intro to the band I found on Youtube:

As well as being a very fine soloist and bandleader, Tim Garland is also a prolific composer and many of the pieces played at this concert were his own original compositions. My favourites of these were the hauntingly evocative Tyne Song (written in celebration of the town of my birth, which brought a tear to my eye) and The Eternal Greeting , which is from the band’s latest album One. They also played lovely versions of two familiar jazz standards, Good Morning Heartache (made famous by Billie Holiday) and the Miles Davis & Bill Evans classic Blue in Green. The programme was very varied, with middle-eastern, classical and flamenco influences, as well as the Jazz/Rock Fusion of the 80s, and the overall standard of music exceptionally high and with a wonderful sense of freshness and sponteneity. Tim Garland also introduced each number in a very engaging and laid-back way, pointing out little items of interest about the music.

I loved every minute and it served to remind me how much I love to hear live jazz. I must make more of an effort to get to concerts. And if you haven’t had the chance to hear this band, do go and hear them – they’re terrific!

At the end of the gig, as an added bonus, the members of the band appeared in the foyer to sign CDs. I had the chance to thank them for the wonderful performance and also now have a signed CD of Songs to the North Sky.