Physics trio take their research to Parliament

Three members of The University of Manchester's Department of Physics and Astronomy are heading to Parliament as finalists in the STEM for BRITAIN poster competition. 

Astrid Weston, Patrick MacGregor and Ellen Sandford have been shortlisted from hundreds of applicants. They will present their PhD research to members of both Houses of Parliament, and a panel of expert judges, on Monday, 7 March 2022. 

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs the unique, annual event in collaboration with a number of distinguished scientific, learned and professional organisations. It showcases the best of UK scientific research being carried out by Early Career Researchers, and is the only national competition of its kind. 

Astrid's poster is entitled 'The next generation of optoelectronics: designing new 2-dimensional metamaterials with a simple twist'. She says: "I entered this year's STEM for BRITAIN competition to have the chance to showcase my research to a wider audience and demonstrate the quality of research that's being carried out at The University of Manchester and, specifically, the National Graphene Institute. I hope to use this experience to improve my public speaking skills." 

Patrick's research studies how the behaviour of radioactive nuclei changes away from stability. A postdoctoral research associate (PDRA) in the Department, he uses the latest in detector technology at the ISOLDE facility at CERN, using a new device called the ISOLDE Solenoidal Spectrometer. 

His entry is 'Repurposing an MRI magnet for the study of exotic nuclei'. He shares: "I entered this competition because I wanted to communicate the ingenious experimental technique of solenoidal spectrometry, which addresses the problem of studying atomic nuclei with short lifetimes. 

"I think it's really creative and I hope that by communicating it to others in an accessible way, more people will be excited to learn about nuclear physics. It's important that more people understand the basics of this field as we begin to rely more on nuclear technology." 

The title of Ellen's poster is 'Maximising the science discovery potential of new direct dark matter experiments'. She explains: "I was interested in participating in this event as I felt that it was a great opportunity to not only present and discuss my PhD research as part of an international particle physics experiment, but for me to learn more about a wide variety of STEM projects currently happening in the UK. 

"I am excited to have engaging discussions with both Early Career Researchers and members of the Houses of Parliament, as well as to promote the cutting-edge research being carried out as part of the DarkSide experiment." 

The trio have been entered into the physics session of the competition, which is sponsored and supported by the Institute of Physics; the professional body and learned society for physics in the UK and Ireland. 

It will culminate in a prize-giving ceremony, with the gold medalist receiving £1,500, and silver and bronze receiving £1,000 and £750 respectively. 

This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country's best young researchers. These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians' best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.

Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee

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