Archive for Swansea University

Lectures by Video

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on October 2, 2012 by telescoper

I spent a short while this morning sitting in on a lecture from one of our fourth-year modules, on Quantum Field Theory. Nothing obviously remarkable about that, except that the lecture was in fact delivered by Prof. Graham Shore of Swansea University and I was sitting in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University with a group of twenty or so Cardiff undergraduates.

This was the first lecture our students have received from Swansea as part of an arrangement to share some teaching. There was a plan to do it last year, but it fell apart owing to technical problems. When I took over as Director of Teaching and Learning earlier this year I was determined to make it work. I have long felt that many of our 4th-year students were losing out on some advanced topics, especially in particle physics, owing to the lack of expertise in that area here. Indeed, the lack of expertise in particle physics here in Cardiff is so extreme that our students have had to put up with being taught by me! Likewise Swansea’s undergraduates have missed out a bit on some topics we do here, especially astrophysics and gravitational physics. This division of labour dates back to the old federal University of Wales where it was decided for strategic reasons not to compete in these two areas of “big science” but to allow Cardiff to do astronomy, astrophysics and gravitational physics and Swansea the particle stuff. It was a sensible decision from a research point of view, but it meant that the two relatively small physics departments here in South Wales could offer their undergraduates more restricted choices of advanced topics  than at bigger universities.

Not for the first time, the web has furnished a solution. After a few technical problems – not entirely sorted out, to be honest – we’ve finally established a video link. The initial setup is temporary, but we will (hopefully by next week) have a permanent, high quality videoconferencing suite for future use. It will probably take some time for lecturers and students on both sides to get used to it, but sitting in this morning I found it more than satisfactory from the point of view of audibility and legibility. The only problem really is that the static camera shot makes it a bit claustrophobic. I’m not sure whether there’s a way around that without spending a fortune on multiple cameras.

Anyway, to mark this historic occasion I thought I post another video lecture on Quantum Field Theory just to give you a flavour of the content and the experience. This is by David Tong of Cambridge University as seen in a lecture recorded by the Perimeter Institute in Canada.


Anyway, in the spirit of openness, and because I couldn’t stay for the whole session,  I’d be interested to hear what any Cardiff students thought of the experience either in private or through the comments box..

Away to Swansea

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on January 11, 2012 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post this evening, primarily to make a note of an enjoyable event that took place this afternoon. I long since gave up keeping a proper journal so the old blog will have to play that role.

Today a small group of cosmologists from the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University made the short trip to Swansea to meet with members of the Physics department there. The idea of the meeting was to explore the possibilites of future research collaboration. For historical reasons there is a pretty strong separation in Wales between research in Particle Physics and Astronomy/Astrophysics; Swansea does the former and Cardiff does the latter. However, cosmology is an area in which there are possible overlaps between some of the – primarily theoretical – research going on at Swansea into, e.g., Quantum Gravity and what we do in Cardiff, e.g. inflationary cosmology.

Anyway we decided to get together for an afternoon of talks by members of both departments to see if anything emerged as potential research topics. In fact, a couple of interesting ideas were discussed and although the main focus of research differs substantially in the two institutions we’re definitely going to get together again to follow up these ideas.

Although I’ve been in Cardiff since 2007, I’d never visited Swansea University before which, considering that it’s only an hour away by train, is admittedly a bit pathetic. In fact I think it’s quite weird the two departments don’t collaborate more in other areas too. I’m certainly very keen to see more joint activities than we have now, so hopefully this is a move in that direction.

Anyway, I’d like to thank Graham Shore at Swansea for hosting us this afternoon and I very much look forward to the planned return leg which will be held in Cardiff in a couple of months.