UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Graduation 2015

28 August 2015

Nick Brook

The 2015 cohort of students from the faculty graduated this week.

Here are the remarks made by Prof Nick Brook, Dean of Mathematical & Physical Sciences, on the occasion of the graduation ceremonies.

It's exciting to see a new cohort of students graduate from our programme today, and to celebrate their achievement. UCL is a community of scholars in which both staff and students work together to come up with new ideas, and change the world for the better. Today we're saying goodbye to this year's graduands, but we know they're heading out into the wider world, to share this university's unique ethos and make a difference.

This academic year has seen impressive breakthroughs, discoveries and initiatives by UCL scientists, and I want to share a few with you.

In October, a study led by a PhD student in the London Centre for Nanotechnology developed a new way of storing information in so-called 'quantum bits'. These are a vital technology for designing the next generation of computers. Instead of calculating binary code made up of 1s and 0s, quantum computers - aided by this type of breakthrough - will be able to crunch data which is made up of values which are both 0 and 1 at once.

In November, UCL space scientists discovered that Mars has similar weather patterns to Earth. Despite being bitterly cold, harbouring no known life, and having a thin and toxic atmosphere, Mars shares the same three-part weather patterns as Earth, with overlapping short, medium and long-term fluctuations in its atmosphere. But the study found that these fluctuations happen over shorter timescales. This will make weather predictions difficult for the ExoMars landing in 2019, in which a UCL-designed camera will explore the Red Planet on board Europe's first Mars rover.

In December, UCL chemists developed a new way of simulating complex materials using supercomputer models. Composite materials, in which nanoparticles of a substance are dispersed through plastic, have incredible properties, thanks to the nano-scale interactions between the two materials. These are difficult to predict, however - and engineers have to use trial and error to find out how they behave. The new study showed that sophisticated computer simulations can accurately predict the properties of new composite materials - a process which could eliminate the need for costly and time-consuming experimentation.

Finally, in May of this year, one of our statisticians developed a way to predict the disruption when a tube line shuts down - something all too familiar to us here in London. Using modern 'big data' techniques and UCL's Legion supercomputer, he analysed a database of every single journey taken over 70 days on the tube and built a detailed model of where and when overcrowding occurs. The work, which Transport for London has taken a close interest in, could help manage the flow of passengers and smooth out disruption in future, making everyone's journeys more predictable.

To our new graduates: I hope that your time at UCL has been productive and stimulating, and that you're ready to move on into the world of work. Our alumni - just like our researchers - are our ambassadors. I'm sure you'll do us proud.