Interview with new Physics and Astronomy Head of School – Professor Jim Dunlop

Prof Jim Dunlop

As he starts his appointment of Head of School, we chatted to Prof Jim Dunlop about his vision for the School, his early career ambitions (which were far from physics!), and his advice for students.

By Luke Mitchell and Caroline Keir


Taking on the role of Head of School brings with it a whole host of challenges that he is wary of, yet eager to tackle head on. A twin focus will be improving the student and staff experience. “For students this will include improving facilities and creating a sense of community.  For staff it will be working to remove unnecessary administration so that they  can focus more on research and teaching, and to allocate more time to students.” He is also keenly aware of the importance communication plays in leading the School’s work towards a unified goal “it is important to ensure students and staff understand why we are doing what we are doing.” Continue reading “Interview with new Physics and Astronomy Head of School – Professor Jim Dunlop”

Astrobiology Periodic Table

Astrobiological Periodic Table

By Luke Mitchell


Charles S. Cockell from the UK Centre for Astrobiology (UKCA) at our very own University was involved in the creation of the Astrobiology Periodic Table. Reminiscent of the logic that Mendeleev himself followed in the creation of the modern periodic table, this Astrobiology Periodic Table serves its user as a compartmented ‘Lego box’ that shows how all the elements in the modern Periodic Table are involved in life as we know it. From how the elements are formed, to their biological use, the Table shows vital information for astrobiologists, astrochemists and astronomers at a glance. Continue reading “Astrobiology Periodic Table”

From quantum physics to harvesting energy from stars: reflection on an interview with Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson and Austin Morris

Photo: Freeman Dyson with student Austin Morris


I’m not sure which is more impressive. Freeman Dyson’s championing of a new era of quantum electrodynamics, or the scale upon which his formidable intellect had an impact.

In his own words, “My most important contribution was the unification of the Feynman-Schwinger-Tomonaga versions of quantum electrodynamics.”, when asked by Vedant Bhargava what he felt was his greatest scientific achievement. Yet his influence spans from fundamental particles like the electron on the scale of roughly 10−18m to a colossal megastructure dubbed a Dyson sphere that would encompass a whole star. Just for reference, the radius of the Sun is on the scale of roughly 108m. That’s something you need a powerful microscope to see right in front of you vs. something you can with your eyes (do not try this at home) 150 million kilometres away. Dyson’s influence is prevalent at every stage. Continue reading “From quantum physics to harvesting energy from stars: reflection on an interview with Freeman Dyson”