Archive for Cardiff University

Studying Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , on January 9, 2017 by telescoper

I just came across this video (featuring, among others, my colleagues Haley Gomez, Carole Tucker and Chris North) advertising the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University. Since the annual recruitment cycle gets properly under way at this time of year I thought I’d share this here for the benefit of prospective students. We had a record intake last year, for both undergraduates and postgraduates. With outstanding successes in research over the past year (including the discovery of gravitational waves and the opening of a new venture in compound semiconductors) there’ll hopefully be a lot of interest again this year! We’re a friendly lot here, and Cardiff is a great city to live in, so why not get in touch?

Back to Work…

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on January 3, 2017 by telescoper

Well, the Christmas break is over at Cardiff University and I’m back in the office of the Data Innovation Research Institute. To be honest, it’s rather quiet around here. Most staff seem to be still on holiday. There are a few students around, mainly international ones. This is actually a revision week at Cardiff University in advance of the mid-year examinations which start next week and go on for a fortnight. After that we’ll be back into teaching. I’ll be doing a Masters-level module on The Physics of the Early Universe in the forthcoming term, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

The outcomes of the annual round of consolidated grants administered by the Astronomy Grants Panel of Science and Technology Facilities Council were announced just before Christmas, with success for some and disappointment for others. I only have anecdotal evidence from personal contacts but it seems to have been a tough round, which wouldn’t surprise me because the funding for basic scientific research in the UK has been flat in cash terms for many years now, and is gradually being eroded by inflation. It’s a tough climate but when, in a couple of years, we lose access to all forms of EU funding things will get even tougher…

Anyway, as new grants are announced and old ones terminated, this is a busy time of year for postdocs (who are largely funded by research grants) seeking new positions. I’ve spent most of the day so far writing references for applicants and will return to that task for a couple of hours after lunch. It’s particularly tough on those whose positions lapse at the end of March who only got notice just before Christmas that their existing funding is not going to be renewed. There’s little time in such a position to get a new job sorted, but on the other hand, new grants are starting from 1st April so there are opportunities out there. It’s not easy to respond if you have a family or other commitments, though.

Another thing that happened just before Christmas was that the Data Innovation Research Institute here at Cardiff University announced its first tranche of “seedcorn” grants to foster interdisciplinary research. These grants are quite small in cash terms but it is hoped that at least some of them will help develop substantial projects by bringing together parts of the University that don’t previously collaborate enough. Congratulations to those whose proposals were selected, and commiserations to those who were unsuccessful.

I was pleased that my proposal – together with Professor Nikolai Leonenko of the School of Mathematics – was one of the successful bids. That means that, probably in the spring, we will be organizing a short workshop relating to the analysis and modelling of astrophysical data defined on the sphere, a topic which has interesting mathematical aspects as well as very practical implications for astronomy and cosmology. We’ll be starting to organize that soon, which adds another item to my to-do list, but it should be a fun conference when it happens.

Before you ask: yes, I do work for the Data Innovation Research Institute but because I was an applicant I recused myself from judging the applications in case there was any perception of a conflict of interest. So there.

Most of my work between now and the start of teaching term is going to be devoted to a couple of MSc courses we’re planning to launch this year, but I’ll write more about them – and plug them shamelessly – when they’re all formally announced and ready to go!

And with that I’d better get back to work again.

Infinite LIGO Dreams

Posted in Art, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2016 by telescoper

There was a special event in the School of Physics & Astronomy here at Cardiff University on Friday afternoon – the unveiling of a new work of art in our coffee area. The work, a large oil painting, called Infinite LIGO Dreams by local artist Penelope Rose Cowley was inspired by the detection of gravitational waves earlier this year:

 

gravitational-wave-artwork-copyright-penelope-cowley-16x9

You can read more about this work, and the circumstances behind its creation, at the Cardiff University website and via the Physics World blog. If you like the piece you can order a poster-sized print from Penelope Cowleys’s own website here.

The unveiling of this artwork was preceded by a drinks reception, which probably accounts for the errors that crept into the blog post I wrote on Friday after the party!

 

Cardiff: Centre of Gravity

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on November 17, 2016 by telescoper

It’s a very busy period for me as the Cardiff University Data Innovation Research Institute (DII) gears up for some exciting new activities in both teaching and research (of which more in due course) and embarks on is strategy for promoting and fostering interdisciplinary research across Cardiff University and beyond.

Yesterday, however, I attended an informal meeting in the School of Physics & Astronomy at which we had an update about other strategic developments in the Gravitational Physics Group, some of whose members work in the DII Following on from the first-ever detection of gravitational waves earlier this year the group has ambitious plans to build on its involvement in this discovery. Here’s a nice short video produced by Cardiff University that discusses this discovery:

 

 

Cardiff University has supported research on gravitational waves for a very long time, and it is important that it reaps the benefit now that its investment is starting to pay off. To rest on laurels at this stage would be to risk losing the benefits of that sustained investment. It was very exciting to hear about the group’s plans for further sustained expansion, which will make the Cardiff one of the leading centres of gravitational wave research  in the world.

I’ve already mentioned on this blog that a couple of new positions have already been advertised, one in gravitational wave astronomy (to consolidate existing activities in theory and data analysis) and the other in a completely new area of Gravitational Wave Experimentation. Those advertisements have now closed and the process of filling the vacancies is under way.

However, yesterday we heard of even more expansion of gravitational physics research, in the form of a new academic position in Time Domain Astronomy with particular emphasis on transient sources of electromagnetic radiation that could be associated with gravitational wave production (such as gamma-ray bursts). I’ll post the advertisement on this blog when it is available. And that’s just the start: further positions will be released over the next few years which will turn Cardiff into a true Centre of Gravity.

Exciting times!

The Last Post – Cardiff University Remembers

Posted in History with tags , , , , on November 11, 2016 by telescoper

 

If you think a lot has happened since July 1st this year, pause a moment to reflect on the fact that 100 years ago today the Battle of the Somme was still raging.

 

Lest we forget.

That Was The Data Innovation Day That Was

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 7, 2016 by telescoper

Time, methinks, for a quick work-related post. You may know that my current appointment is in association with Cardiff University’s Data Innovation Research Insitute, and it’s that part of my job that is taking up most of my time at the moment. Last Friday (4th November) we had our first Data Innovation Day, the aim of which was to encourage collaboration between Schools and Research Institutes in the area of Data Science.

To this end, on Friday morning we had a dozen short(ish) talks on data science aspects of all kinds of subjects, from neuroimaging to gravitational wave research to healthcare to biosocial computing to statistical modelling and so on and so forth. It was a fascinating mixture of presentations and about 75 people attended, which was a pretty good audience. After lunch we broke into groups to develop specific research projects and establish what the Data Innovation Institute can do to help foster collaborations across disciplinary and administrative boundaries. That’s much harder than it might sound, and is certainly harder than it should be in modern universities. We had no shortage of ideas, and let’s hope we can turn them into concrete projects.

Anyway, one of my contributions to the day was to set up a Twitter account for the Data Innovation Research Institute together with a logo:

dii_ligo

We currently have a princely 37 followers. Feel free to follow if you’re on Twitter and interested in Data Science!

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation

Posted in Biographical, Uncategorized with tags , on September 28, 2016 by telescoper

It seems my relocation to Cardiff is now more-or-less complete. The boxes of stuff from my old office at the University of Sussex arrived on Monday and I’ve been gradually stacking the books on the shelves in the rather large office to which I’ve been assigned:

relocation

In fact the removals people caught me on the hop, as they said they would phone me about an hour before they were due to arrive but didn’t do so. I was quite surprised to see all the boxes already there when I came in on Monday!

I was planning to have all this delivered a while ago to my house, because I didn’t think I was going to be given an office big enough to accommodate much of it. But then I had to delay the removal because my visit to hospital was put back so I wouldn’t have been able to receive it. Then I found out I had plenty of space at the University so I decided to have it all moved here.

 

office

I’ll be sharing this space with other members of the Data Innovation Research Institute, but for the time being I’m here on my own. The books make it look a bit more “lived-in” than it did when I arrived, though the mini-bar still hasn’t arrived yet.

It’s actually about four years since I was appointed to my previous job at Sussex; I moved there from Cardiff in early 2013. It’s a bit strange being back. I didn’t imagine when I started at Sussex that I would be returning relatively soon, but then I didn’t imagine a lot of the things that would lead to my resignation. From what I’ve heard, many of those things have been getting even worse since I left. I think I’ll keep a discussion of all that to myself, though, at least until I write my memoirs!