What Sir Mark Walport taught me during his visit to the University of Lincoln

I was privileged to witness Professor Sir Mark Walport opening today of the magnificent new Isaac Newton Building. This is the home of the Schools of Mathematics and Physics; Engineering; and Computer Science. Sir Mark gave the “Great Lives” lecture attended by over 400 students, industrialists, academics and important dignitaries. He gave a candid and entertaining reflection on his career ranging from his early interest in medical sciences to chair of the Welcome Trust to government’s chief scientific advisor through to being appointed as the CEO designate of newly formed United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Sir Mark Walport

Here are 10 things I learned from his visit.

  1. Sir Mark emphasised the importance of being curious and enthusiastic about things.   These drove his early interest in medical science. This is a key quality for any researcher regardless of the field of interest. It is the starting point in any discovery. The great physicist expressed this in the following way. “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” —Albert Einstein.
  2. To have major impact on society you need to ask big and bold questions that fascinate you. The answers to these questions will help large numbers of people in society. Focus on the big questions in your field of interest. They could be related to issues of significant interest most people such as health, economy, environment, space, energy and communication.
  3. A researcher needs to be humble.  As you climb the ladder you graduate from knowing a lot about one thing to knowing a little about many things and eventually to knowing nothing about everything. Despite his esteemed status in UK and World science, Sir Mark’s humility and down to earth attitude is strikingly attractive.
  4. To succeed it is essential to have mentors throughout your life to help, encourage and support you. Sir Mark named numerous mentors who helped him along the way from school teachers to PhD supervisor to heads of research and senior colleagues. Fittingly during his lecture in the new building Sir Mark quoted Isaac Newton; “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” It is important to put your best student on your top research project. You should encourage and celebrate their progress.
  5. By putting all the funding bodies such as EPSRC, BBRS, Innovate UK, etc under one roof of UKRI, Sir Mark hoped to encourage, support and energise multidisciplinary research in the UK. The Isaac Newton Building houses three schools in a seamless manner. This will enable conversations and shared access to world class facilities for this to occur at the University of Lincoln.
  6. Great careers are often un-planned. Sir Mark referred to his career as being un-planned. He modestly stated that the reason he got to chair funding panels was because he read all the papers meticulously. This gave him a greater insight than other people. This emphasises the importance of doing your homework and preparing well in advance – a characteristic shared by all the greats in any field.
  7. For great research to occur you need excellent facilities, infrastructure, and environment and be surrounded by great people. These need to be constantly improved to progress research and develop talent.
  8. Sir Mark emphasised the importance of teamwork. To go from an idea to its translation into a product or treatment a wide variety of people need to champion different stages of the cycle. A researcher making the discovery is often not the best people to develop and commercialise the discovery. Different skills and experiences are needed to take the idea to the marketplace and make it successful.
  9. Brexit was mentioned and Sir Mark was positive about the need to continue to work with people internationally and collaborate to advance bigger causes in science and many UK companies are operating globally. He hoped that many opportunities will still be available to UK scientists.
  10. The focus of research funding should be on excellence. The key question is, how will excellence and funding diffuse through to the Universities outside the Russell Group? Will the focus on the higher ranking universities starve and drive research and researchers out of other institutions to outside UK?

I found the visit illuminating and it was great to rub shoulders to one of UK’s top scientists.


Star Wars and Physics

Theory of Complex Matter

With a new Star wars episode airing this week, it is an opportunity to reflect on what we understand about the force in Star Wars and elsewhere…

Source: Star Wars and Physics

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International accolade for Lincoln’s leading algebraist

Congratulations. Great achievement. I am indeed honoured to be working with world leading mathematician and a fantastic gentleman in my team at Lincoln. If anyone wants to study Mathematucs and be taught by great mathematicians then University of Lincoln should be your No 1 choice.

Maths & Physics News

Dr Evgeny Khukhro and The President of the University of Brasilia Professor Márcia Abrahão Moura

On 3 July a ceremony was held in University of Brasilia on occasion of bestowing on Evgeny Khukhro the title of Professor Honoris Causa.

The ceremony began with the British national anthem, followed by the national anthem of Brazil. Then Dr Emerson de Melo delivered a presentation on behalf ofthe Department of Mathematics for the case of Evgeny Khukhro’s title. The President (Reitora) of the University Professor Márcia Abrahão Moura declared the Council’s decision of bestowing on Dr Evgeny Khukhro the title of Professor Honoris Causa, presented Evgeny Khukhro with the correspoding certificate, and adorned him with the academic stole in the colours of University of Brasilia. After that Dr Khukhro gave a short talk. He thanked the Reitora, other dignitaries present, colleagues and guests for the honour of the title, expressed his deep respect…

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54th Newton Lecture by the Head of the School

Maths & Physics News

On Tuesday 4th of July 2017 Professor Andrei Zvelindovsky, the founding head of the School of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Lincoln, gave a lecture ‘From Newton’s Light to Electromagnetic Waves: A Path to Enlightening’ at the King’s School in Grantham. The school was founded in 1528 and attended by Isaac Newton. The lecture was 54th Newton lecture with the first one being in 1960. Andrei’s talk described ideas of light, from Newton’s concept of colour to the modern description of electromagnetic waves and their multiple applications. The lecture was attended by the students, staff and members of the Board of Governors and was followed by the Vote of Thanks from the Head Boy during which Andrei was presented with an “Newton apple”.

After the lecture. L-R: Oliver Jakes (Head Boy), Miss Sara Jones (Subject Leader, Physics), Prof Andrei Zvelindovsky, Mr Frank Hedley (Head Master) and Matthew Dixon (Deputy Head…

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Visit to Moorfield Nanotechnology

My visit to Moorfield Nanotechnology in Knutsford, with Dr Matthew Booth and Dr Vladimir Elkin from the Lincoln Materials for Energy Research Group, brought back many happy memories of the fantastic times I had working for VSW Scientific Ltd before embarking on an academic career. VSW provided a bridge from the hussle and bustle of high pressure environment in industry and creative and slower pace of academia. I worked with some great scientists such as Professor Sir David King, Professor John Foord, Professor Neville Richardson and Professor David Armour designing and building state of the art scientific equipment. They inspired me to build an academic career which has been highly rewarding and enjoyable so far.

Moorfield Nanotechnology

Micro and Nanomanufacturing Volume 2 Edited by Waqar Ahmed and Mark J Jackson – due out soon

When the eminent Professor Mark J Jackson asked me to edit Volume 2 of Micro and Nanomanufacturing with him I was naturally delighted because working with Mark is always fun and we have been very prolific over the last 10 years. The first volume published by Springer  and edited by Mark has been very successful with over 14404 downloads.


Micro and Nanomanufacturing provides a comprehensive treatment of established micro & nano fabrication techniques and addresses the needs of practicing manufacturing engineers by applying established and research laboratory manufacturing techniques to a wide variety of materials.

Engineers seeking more knowledge of how nano and micro devices are designed and fabricated will learn:

  • Manufacturing and fabrication at the micro and nanoscales
  • Using bulk and surface micromachining techniques, LiGA and deep x-ray lithography to manufacture semiconductors
  • Producing master molds with micromachining
  • The deposition of thin films, pulsed water drop machining, and nanomachining

Since the publication of the first volume significant progress in materials and manufacturing technologies has been made. Hence, Micro and Nanomanufacturing Volume 2 contains eighteen completely new chapters from leading international experts. The book is now complete and being prepared by Springer for publication and coming out soon. I am  so excited about receiving my copy in the post from Springer.

Industrial and Econo-physics

Study Physics

Physics students in their second year at Lincoln gave fantastic feedback regarding the Industrial and Econophysics module. This module is intended to showcase some of the industrial applications of physics, with a focus on the finance sector towards the end of the module.

A series of guest lectures were given by local industrialists from a range of industries in which physics is a primary tool. Our local industrial partners include Micrometric Ltd, Teledyne e2v (UK) Ltd and the Radiotherapy Physics department at Lincoln County Hospital. In addition to the guest lectures, students were given the opportunity to visit the relevant industrial sites around the city of Lincoln.

IMG_0575 Students visit Micrometric Ltd – a local SME with expertise in laser manufacturing.

Students were also given a case study assignment about Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility which they had visited the previous year. The students prepared a professional-quality poster on the subject matter from one of the…

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Abdullah feeling great after completing PhD amendments – well done.

Abdullah has been a credit to his group from Shah Abdul Latif University. Smart, hard working and thinking about the progress of the group over the last 3 years. The journey is almost complete with a PhD in Knowledge Sharing Processes for Identity Theft Prevention within Online Retail Organisations. I wish him great success in the future. It has been a privilege and pleasure working with him.

Fantastic visit to Surface Science Lab in the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy at Liverpool University

I enjoyed our visit and discussions at the University of Liverpool Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy with Dr Matthew Booth and Dr Vladimir Elkin. This is going to be a fantastic collaboration for our research group – I’m really excited about the future of this research efforts.

MEQ results: the best school in the University

The School of Mathematics and Physics is the top school at the University of Lincoln in the Module Evaluation Questionnaires completed by students. Well done to all staff and students for this fantastic achievement.

Maths & Physics News

As a result of the latest Module Evaluation by students (MEQ) the School of Mathematics and Physics came first amongst all the school in the University of Lincoln! The competition was tough, as the second school is just 1% behind us! Congratulations!

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