Scientists in Schools - free schools talks on the latest physics research

PhD students and post-doctoral researchers from the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Manchester are available to deliver free talks on their research to schools in Greater Manchester. Each talk is ~45 minutes long. See below for the topics currently on offer, and fill out this form to request a speaker. If you have any questions, please email Emma Nichols (

What is matter? A classroom debate

Plasma ball picture from wikipedia

This session will challenge your pupils to discuss the foundations of modern physics. They will be posed with the question “what is matter?”; then asked to debate their answers. Each time a conclusion has been reached, a demonstration will be shown. This will both aid and challenge their understandings as we probe deeper into the underlying laws of nature.

Delivered by Lloyd Cawthorne
Suitable for year 10 and 11, can be adapted for A-level

The World's Biggest Fridge: The Large Hadron Collider at CERN

CERN detector picture from wiki

The LHC accelerates and collides two high energy beams of protons, hoping to answer some of science's biggest questions. This session endeavours to explain how this vast machine works, following a single proton from rest to almost the speed of light. The aim is to inspire students’ interest in science and engineering, and to demonstrate how accelerator research has impacted on everyday life.

Delivered by Haroon Rafique
Can be tailored to a range of age groups

Nano-scale magnetic memories

picture for August J's nanoscale talk

In hard disk drives, nanotechnology is something that many of us already use every day to store information, such as computer games or videos of cats. I will explore the inner workings of hard disk drives, my own research into ways of making these devices even smaller, faster, and better. I will also describe what working as a scientist is like for me.

Delivered by August Johansson
Suitable for Year 8-10

Pulsating stars

Pulsar image from wikipedia

How precise are your wrist watches, I bet not better than the 'pulsars' the pulsating stars in the sky. How compact are the bricks in your house, I bet not more than pulsars. If your weight could be taken in pulsars, you would be 1011 kgs! So let us talk about the exotic pulsars. Pulsars are the endpoints of stellar evolution and are created after stars three times more massive than our sun dies. Pulsars have very high magnetic fields and gravity that cannot be created on Earth - thus pulsars provide extreme laboratories in space to study physics.

Delivered by Bhaswati Bhattacharyya
Suitable for Year 9-11

The Cosmological Principle

We live in a very big universe. A simple question we can ask is whether the universe is the same everywhere? As it turns out the answer to this question isn't as simple. The cosmological principle is an assumption we make that says that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic i.e. that it is the same everywhere. We must make this assumption in order to say anything meaningful about the universe as a whole. But what evidence is there to support the cosmological principle? Could the universe in fact be different on the largest scales and by extension, do the laws of physics that apply today necessarily apply to the past?

Delivered by Damien Trinh
Suitable for A-level

Metamaterials: from invisibility cloaks to the lab on a chip

Metamaterials pic from wiki

Researchers have recently developed a revolutionary class of materials with exotic new properties unseen in nature. We will explore the science behind these "meta"-materials and their potential for use in invisibility cloaking, solar power and biosensing.

Delivered by Philip Thomas
Suitable for Year 10 and Up

Probing the Universe with its largest structures

Galaxy cluster, from wikipedia

Galaxy clusters are the largest stable objects that we know of, consisting of hundreds or thousands of galaxies. The physics of galaxy clusters is dominated by gravitational interaction of dark matter and studying the formation of these colossal objects provides a unique testing ground for theories of dark matter, gravity and the early universe. Our investigation of galaxy clusters relies upon two key approaches: simulating the Universe and observing the structures we see around us. This talk will discuss the ingredients required to simulate a galaxy cluster, and what these simulations tell us about the nature of dark matter and the evolution of the Universe.

Delivered by Monique Henson
Aimed at A-Level, but could be adapted for GCSE students

The Theory of (Almost) Everything

CERN pic from wiki - different size

An overview of Particle Physics and the Large Hadron Collider with a special focus on how we simulate the physics involved, and use our simulations to make sense of what we see.

Delivered by Graeme Nail
Aimed at A-Level, but could be adapted for GCSE students

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