UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy


Annual Physics and Astronomy Lectures


The UK’s journey to Net Zero and my journey into climate policy, Professor Emily Nurse


The UK has a legally binding target to reach Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Last year the government published its  Net Zero Strategy and I will talk you through the steps it plans to take to reach this ambitious goal. 

I will explain the role of the UK climate change committee and what our latest assessment of the Government’s progress towards its climate targets.

And finally I will explain how I made my journey from physics at UCL into climate policy.


Brave new worlds: the planets in our galaxy, Professor Giovanna Tinetti

The Earth is special to us – it’s our home. But is it really special as a planet? Every star we can see in the night sky is likely to be orbited by planets. There are probably a thousand billion planets in our galaxy alone. 
In about twenty years, over 3800 “exoplanets” have been discovered in distant solar systems. There are planets completing a revolution around their mother star in less than one day, as well as planets orbiting two or even three stars or moving on trajectories so eccentric as to resemble comets. Some of them are freezing cold, some are so hot that their surface is molten. But beyond that our knowledge falters: What are they made of? How did they form? What’s the weather like there? Are they habitable?  

Finding out why are these new worlds as they are and what is the Earth’s place in our galaxy and –ultimately– in the universe, is one of the key challenges of modern astrophysics.


Bridging Quantum Science and Biology, Dr Alexandra Olaya-Castro

Quantum Science has achieved a remarkable theoretical and experimental success. It allows us to predict, quantify and probe “quantumness” in a variety of atomic, solid state, and optical scenarios. Concomitantly, technological advances have enabled us to zoom into the biological world, down to the biomolecular scale to investigate the domain where quantum phenomena cannot be neglected. The dialog, at times full of scepticism, between these two areas has given strength to the field of quantum effects in biology. In this lecture I will discuss how this field is helping to draw a sophisticated picture of fundamental processes in biology such as photosynthesis. The insight promises to open avenues to transform life processes on Earth by understanding and modifying them at the quantum level.

Watch the lecture: Watch the lecture
Watch the Q&A: Watch the Q&A

video credit: Dishad Husain, imotion


Trapping and manipulating neutral atoms with electric fields – from quantum information to antimatter physics, Dr Stephen Hogan


The development of experimental methods to control the motion atoms and molecules in highly-excited electronic states using inhomogeneous electric fields [1] has opened exciting new opportunities in a range of research areas, from hybrid quantum information processing [2,3] to antimatter physics [4].

In this talk I will describe how gases of neutral atoms, prepared in selected internal quantum states by laser photoexcitation, can be transported and trapped above chip-based electrode structures using inhomogeneous electric fields [5,6]. I will then present the results of recent experiments in the areas of

i. hybrid quantum information processing

ii. studies of resonant energy transfer in low-energy inelastic molecular scattering

iii. fundamental physics with positronium atoms

in which these methods are beginning to be exploited, and outline future perspectives on this work.

[1] S. D. Hogan, EPJ Techniques and Instrumentation 3, 1 (2016) [2] P. Rabl, D. DeMille, J. M. Doyle, M. D. Lukin, R. J. Schoelkopf, and P. Zoller, Phys. Rev. Lett. 97, 033003 (2006) [3] S. D. Hogan, J. A. Agner, F. Merkt, T. Thiele, S. Filipp, and A. Wallraff, Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 063004 (2012) [4] A. Deller, A. M. Alonso, B. S. Cooper, S. D. Hogan, and D. B. Cassidy, Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 073202 (2016) [5] P. Lancuba and S. D. Hogan, Phys. Rev. A 88, 043427 (2013) [6] P. Lancuba and S. D. Hogan, J. Phys.


Life after the Higgs: where next for particle physics?, Dr Gavin Hesketh