From lab to life

1 November 2019

How do we transform our research from something hidden in our labs into a technology you can use? In October, we shared some of our secrets through our Physics: Lab to Life initiative as part of the IF Oxford science festival. We opened our doors to some 200 curious teenagers and adults so they could find out more about physics and how it impacts daily life. Visitors were able to listen to lectures as well as take tours of our laboratories and speak to the physicists themselves about their work, how they go about it and what impact it might have on society.
‘Events like this one are integral to our work here in the Physics Department at Oxford,’ confirms Oliver Moore, Outreach Programmes Manager. ‘We want people beyond our department and the university to get a feel for what we do and, more importantly, understand something about why we do it. And we also want to spark the interest of brilliant and curious young minds so they might consider becoming the next generation of physicists who will change our world.’

Specialist lectures

During the event, visitors were able to choose between three separate lectures covering diverse topics: Professor Katherine Blundell OBE shared her research on black holes and the ‘Global Jet Watch’ project, through which she engages young people in developing countries in science; Professor Achillefs Kapanidis, the BBRSC’s Innovator of the Year, showcased his work on single-molecule microscopes, which allow us to peer into the deepest secrets of biological cells; and two postdoctoral researchers shared the applications of their research: Dr Elliot Bentine spoke on ultracold atoms and devices that could harness them, and Dr Hector Garcia Morales explored the everyday applications of particle accelerators.

Access to science

Visitors were given a unique insight into the life and work of a physicist. Eight laboratories were opened up with researchers guiding groups around the spaces and equipment they use in their work. The labs, with their resident experts, showed off a huge variety of technologies, from supercomputers and superconductors to nanoimaging microscopes and nanomedicine.

In addition, hands-on science stalls showcased some of the exciting ways Oxford University researchers are developing the technologies of tomorrow from the physics of today – including next-generation solar cells, quantum computers, superconducting wires, radio astronomy and particle accelerators.

Enjoying physics

‘With this event in particular, we wanted to highlight how physics can be applied to everyday life – it isn’t all mind-stretching theory,’ concludes Oliver. ‘We showcased particular projects that either have a direct current application or that will shape how we live in the future. In line with our ethos of stimulating interest and enjoyment in physics as well as encouraging public engagement with research, we wanted people to have unlimited access to our physicists. We organised the event as such to encourage discussion, interaction and questions while offering a unique behind-the-scenes look into the fascinating world of physics.’

What our attendees had to say...

“It was amazing to see new innovations.”
“I didn’t know that new types of solar cell can be made!”
“Very well explained and very interesting to hear.”
“I think that Oxford Physics researchers are brilliant!”
“When I leave this event, I am going to go home and try some physics experiments.”

Find out more about our forthcoming events and join our mailing list to keep up to date.