Scottish innovation and collaboration have been highlighted in a new video produced for the APS March Meeting in Boston. Featuring interviews with our academics, researchers and the Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland, the video highlights our strengths across our seven research themes, and our Graduate School, providing advanced training for our doctoral students.

The APS March meeting is held each year in Boston, USA, for more than 11,000 attendees from academia, industry and major labs.

See the full video here.

CERN Update: LHCb discovers new baryon with two charm quarks 

Paul Soler, Professor in Experimental Particle Physics at the University of Glasgow, said in a statement: “This is the first time that a baryon has been conclusively observed containing two heavy charm quarks and is a new frontier in understanding the strong force that binds quarks together.” [Newsweek]

On the 6th of July 2017, Dr Patrick Spradlin, a SUPA physicist from the University of Glasgow, announced the discovery of a new baryon, called the Ξcc++, at the European Physical Society High Energy Physics (EPS-HEP) Conference held in Venice (Italy). The analysis was carried out by SUPA physicists working on the LHCb experiment at CERN. The findings are published in Physical Review Letters.

 On the 4th January 2017 a third gravitational wave signal (GW170104) was detected by both of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors further establishing the era of gravitational wave astronomy .

This week, the LHCb experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery of five new resonances (very short-lived particles), known as excited Ωc (Omega_c) baryons. Baryons are composed of three fundamental particles called quarks. Well-known examples of baryons are the protons and neutrons that are found in atomic nuclei. A proton is made of two “up” quarks and one “down” quark, bound together via the strong nuclear force. The Ωc baryons are similar, but they are made from two “strange” quarks and one “charm” quark. These are like heavier (i.e., more massive) versions of the up and down quarks. The Ωc baryons do not exist inside atomic nuclei and can only be produced on earth in certain particle physics experiments such as the CERN Large Hadron Collider.



The “SUPAscopes” are three identical 1m robotic telescopes located at top observatory sites spread around the southern hemisphere: Siding Spring Observatory (Australia), South African Astronomical Observatory, and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (Chile). Our capital investment has been turned into a share of the larger world-spanning LCO (Las Cumbres Observatory) network of 0.4m, 1m, and 2m telescopes, with a partnership agreement enabling collaborative projects with LCO and further network partners.


By providing round-the-clock access to the night sky, the LCO/SUPAscope network enables quasi-uninterrupted time series observations with both multi-filter imagers and spectrographs, and is the leading facility of its kind in the world. The automated scheduling of the telescopes allows for fast response via software interfaces.


Outstanding Academics, Celebrated Professionals and Royalty Join Scotland’s National Academy

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is delighted to announce that HRH The Duke of Cambridge has been elected to become an RSE Royal Honorary Fellow. We much look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with HRH, as we have with our Patron, Her Majesty The Queen, and our other Royal Fellows.¹

The SUPA Careers Event 2016 took place at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh on 6th December. In keeping with the format used successfully in the past, we had a range of speakers from various industries who gave a brief introduction and then took part in round table sessions where delegates had the opportunity to chat with the speakers, ask questions, and get an insight into a variety of career options. 

The SUPA careers event is designed to demonstrate the wide range of careers open to people with a physics PhD. The 80 student attendees heard from nine speakers who have careers in everything from satellites to software start-ups, including academia, finance, patent law and medical physics. Following brief introductions, the speakers spent 10 minutes with small groups of students to discuss their careers in detail before moving on to speak to other groups. 

CV clinics were provided by Vishanti Fox of the Institute of Physics (IoP), and careers advisors Keith Kilgore (HW), Helen Stringer (UoE) and Katrina Garder (UoG).

An exhibition of Scottish Physics employers included representatives from M2 Lasers, Textesor, Leonardo, Coherent and the IoP.

MagTEM at the University of Glasgow

In 2012 the Materials and Condensed Matter Physics Group opened the MagTEM facility at the University of Glasgow. MagTEM is a JEOL ARM (Atomic Resolution Microscope) 200cF which is a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) with aberration correction provided by CEOS. Aberration correction allows world leading performance of this instrument, and the capability of the instrument is summarised below:

University of Glasgow's LISA Pathfinder team has been awarded The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation and the British Interplanetary Society's 2016 Sir Arthur Clarke Award for "Space Achievement in Academic Research or Study".

The Welcome Event for new SUPA students was held on 28th October at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. First year students from across SUPA came to learn about the excellent research in SUPA, to meet colleagues in other universities and to receive advice from their peers.

Amplitudes 2017 summer school (July 2017): The study of scattering amplitudes has seen vigorous progress in recent years, both within Scotland and internationally. This school will provide training for graduate students and academics based in Scotland in this exciting field and will precede the annual Amplitudes conference. The school will be held at University of Edinburgh in July 2017.   Biophotonics North (2nd – 5th November 2016): Biophotonics is an important field of research within SUPA’s PALS theme area and many graduate students pursuing a Ph.D. in this theme will benefit from attending this conference, from mingling with their peers over an event focused on their field of research, as well as from meeting with delegates from outside SUPA. This will enrich their knowledge and inform their research practice by implementing ideas/know-how from other groups and horizons. Workshops on research-related problems beyond the laboratory – gender balance in research and career progression – will increase the professional skills and ethics of the attendees. This event will be held at University of St Andrews.   FluoroFest (Spring 2017):
Professor Norbert Lutkenhaus (Feb 2017): Prof Norbert Lütkenhaus is a leading international expert in quantum optics and quantum key distribution, who focuses on bridging the gap between theory and experiment in the realization of quantum technologies. Prof Lütkenhaus’ expertise is likely to appeal to students interested both in theoretical studies as well as in experimental implementations.  SUPA graduate students will have the opportunity to interact with Prof Lütkenhaus, and to learn about and be trained in recent developments in the fields in which he is an expert. Prof Lütkenhaus will deliver a series of lectures (indicatively each 1 hour long), to be broadcast / recorded through the SUPA videoconferencing network, and local seminars at the hosting institutions. Professor Lutkenhaus will be visiting University of Glasgow, Heriot-Watt University, University of St. Andrews, and University of Strathclyde.   Dr William D. Phillips (July 2017):

Scottish-born scientists, David Thouless and Michael Kosterlitz, along with Duncan Haldane from London, have been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter. David, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, originates from Bearsden.  Michael Kosterlitz, a physics professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island comes from Aberdeen.  SUPA has extended congratulations to both.

The Scottish Centre for the Application of Plasma-Based Accelerators, SCAPA, creates a state-of-the-art environment for collaborative research that will support research, development and application of laser-driven accelerators and next-generation radiation sources. It will promote collaboration between academia and industry, and enable engagement of the UK research community with large international projects. SCAPA houses two high power lasers to drive accelerators and radiation sources, one high-repetition laser for target manufacture and diagnostics, 7 beam lines in three shielded areas, a control room and preparation laboratories.

Charlotte Desvages

On 30th September 2016 Researchers from across SUPA took part in Explorathon2016, Scotland’s contribution to European researcher’s night. A one night celebration of research, Explorathon was an extravaganza of discovery, debate and entertainment. Events were held in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews. 

In St Andrews, Valerie Bentivegna (Dundee) presented her biophysics research as standup comedy in a Bright Club set. Helen Cammack, Jonathan Keeling, Brendon Lovett, Kyle Ballantine and Aidan Strathearn (St Andrews), presented “Quantum digits and dances” at the Byre theatre, explaining the mysteries of quantum mechanics. 

In Edinburgh Charlotte Desvages and Reggie Harrision from the acoustics group demonstrated the physics of musical instruments at the “Curiosity Forest”. 

A key knowledge exchange output of SUPA comes from its six hundred graduate students. Many of these students have industrial sponsors, either through one of the four Centres for Doctoral Training, or via another arrangement between their host university and industry. An excellent illustration of the benefits that can accrue from industrial involvement in a PhD is provided by a recently completed studentship from SUPA’s INSPIRE programme.

The studentship was a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Toshiba Medical Visualisation Systems Europe and concerned the development of acquisition and analysis methods to image coronary arteries and cardiac function. The student, Chengjia Wang, supervised by Keith Goatman (Toshiba Medical) and Scott Semple (University of Edinburgh), successfully defended his thesis at the end of June. This topped off an extremely successful collaboration with two manuscripts in preparation with Chengjia as lead author to add to the multiple conference presentations, co-authored papers, and a patent on the registration of medical images.

In 2015 the universe was officially proven to be weird. After many decades of research, a series of experiments showed that distant, entangled objects can seemingly interact with each other through what Albert Einstein famously dismissed as “Spooky action at a distance”.  

A new experiment by an international team led by Heriot-Watt researcher Dr Alessandro Fedrizzi has now found that the universe is even weirder than that: entangled objects do not cause each other to behave the way they do.

Distinguishing cause from effect comes naturally to us. PhD student Martin Ringbauer from the University of Queensland explains, “Picture yourself in a room where someone is flicking a light switch. Intuition and experience lets you establish a simple causal model: the switch causes the lights to turn on and off. In this case, correlation implies causation.”

“If we could entangle two lights, you would see them turn on and off at random, regardless of how far apart they are, with no obvious switch and in perfect lockstep. Einstein’s preferred explanation of this mysterious effect was that there must be a hidden light switch which acts as a common cause for our entangled lights.”

SUPA launched a new Public Engagement Network on 8th September at Heriot Watt University. Researchers from across SUPA gathered to discuss how SUPA can support public engagement with physics in Scotland.

The event opened with a panel session on Considerations for Public Engagement chaired by Siân Bevan. Grant McAllister introduced SSERC and stressed its role in providing support and resources for teachers across Scotland. Aidan Robson and Helen Cammack discussed the challenges and opportunities inherent in taking part in public engagement activities as an academic. Both are enthusiastic supporters of SSERC. Stephen Breslin CEO of the Glasgow Science Centre spoke about Science as culture and the need for a science centre to create enjoyment and enthusiasm (which lead to repeat visits) Heather Earnshaw introduced the IoP’s improving gender balance project by graphically illustrating the audience’s gender bias. A lively discussion followed.