06/2020: Virtual DIAMOND Light Source Visit

We could not make an in-person visit to the DIAMOND Light Source as originally planned, but the facility has provided a virtual tour here.

Aditionally, why don’t you take a vitual tour of the ISIS facility, which is also in Harwell?


05/2020: Weather (J. Dorrington)

Time: Thursday 21 May 2020 from 19:00 for 19:30
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event will be delivered as a livestream. More details can be found here.

TITLE: Supercomputers and Seagulls – The Story of Weather Prediction

The changing weather affects every aspect of our lives, even if we don’t always realise it. Far beyond prompting us to pick up our umbrella as we go out for the day, weather forecasts shape the actions of farmers, power plants, disaster relief organisations, and a dozen other important industries and sectors. But how do we actually make these predictions of hurricanes, heat-waves and hailstorms, and why is it still so difficult to peer far into the atmosphere’s future?

We’ll take a look at the long history of weather forecasting, a journey from witchcraft and hot-air balloons to satellites and supercomputers. On the way we’ll discover some remarkable truths about the boundaries of scientific prediction, and the important role of Chaos in the natural world.”


Josh Dorrington is a DPhil student in Atmospheric Physics at the University of Oxford. He works on improving the accuracy of weather forecasts, assessing the value these predictions hold for society, and understanding the complex physical processes that shape European extreme weather events.


04/2020: Bio Pharmaceutica (D. Fairbrass)

Place and Time:

Online, Thursday 16 April 2020, 19:00 for 19:30
A minimally edited version of the livestream can be watched on YouTube.

TITLE: From Pig Insulin to Gene Therapy: 100 Years of Biopharma

It’s almost 100 years since Canadian researchers administered the first dose of animal derived insulin to 14 year old Leonard Thompson in an attempt to treat his diabetes, and since then the production of medication using animals and isolated cell lines has not only become commonplace, but continues to provide ground-breaking and life saving treatments. Together we will explore how current biologics can treat a range of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer and Crohn’s disease, before turning our attention to emerging cell and gene therapies that offer the opportunity to cure Leukaemia, Parkinson’s Disease and many other lifelong conditions, with just a single dose.


After reading Biochemistry BSc at the University of Sheffield, Danielle Fairbrass went on to post-graduate study, gaining her doctorate in Sheffield where she was studying Monoclonal Antibody production in CHO cell lines and its impact on cell metabolism. Danielle went on to conduct post-doctoral research at the Universite de Rennes 1, before moving back to the UK where she took up her current position as a scientist in the Cell Engineering Group at leading cell and gene therapy company, Oxford Biomedica, engineering producer cell lines generating LentiViral vectors for gene therapy applications.

02/2020: Low T (H v d Vliet)

Place and Time:
Abingdon, Thursday 20 Feburary 2020 from 19:00 for 19:30
King Charles Room, King’s Head and Bell, (10 E St Helen St, Abingdon OX14 5EA)

TITLE: Ultra-low temperatures – pushing the boundaries of engineering

The coldest natural place in our universe is in the centre of the Boomerang nebula, at 1 Kelvin (-272.15 °C). It is relatively unknown that here on earth, scientific research is routinely done at temperatures 2 orders of magnitude colder than this! At Oxford Instruments we create a low temperature environment for industries and universities to push the boundaries of science and enable quantum technologies, nano technology research and materials characterisation at 10 mK and below, at the push of a button.

In this talk I will discuss how ultra-low temperatures can be achieved, how we conduct research in these extreme environments, the applications and reasons behind going so cold and most importantly (to someone who spent 4 years of their PhD measuring temperature), how we measure the temperature of such an environment


Harriet van der Vliet is a quantum engineer at Oxford Instruments Nanoscience and worked in Tubney Woods for the last two and a half years. She work in the NPI (new product introduction) team  to develop the next generation of low temperature systems predominantly for use by researchers and industries working in quantum technologies and fundamental science. Currently, she is developing a cryogenic link to connect two cryostats as part of the European Quantum Flagship project, QMiCS – Quantum Microwave Communication and Sensing. This will be used at the Walter Meissner Institute for research towards quantum microwave communications.

During her first year at Oxford Instruments, she was chosen to go on secondment to the United States to work at another Oxford Instruments business, Asylum Research in Santa Barbara, to develop my management and commercial skills and experience working in a different culture.

Prior to working at Oxford instruments, she completed a PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London in the London Low Temperature Laboratory, working with the coldest electrons in the world and measuring their temperature directly! She not only had the coldest electrons in the world, but also (unofficially) one of the longest PhD thesis titles – Platforms for new quantum technologies – Addressing the challenges in cooling and exploring the properties of strongly correlated electron systems, using current sensing noise thermometry. Seh also held some post graduate research positions at Royal Holloway as part of the European Microkelvin Platform and InK – Implementing the New Kelvin.