Particle physics research

Swansea University scientist to present his research to Parliament

Thomas Spriggs, a PhD student at Swansea University, is due to present his physics research to Parliament, a panel of expert judges and politicians, as one of the finalists in STEM for Britain 2022.

The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee organizes this unique annual event in collaboration with a number of distinguished scientific, scholarly and professional organisations. It showcases the best of UK scientific research by early career researchers and is part of the only national competition of its kind.

Thomas is among a group of strong finalists in the physics session of the competition, which is sponsored and supported by the Institute of Physics; the professional body and learned society for physics in the UK and Ireland.

Thomas’ poster describes how he tries to reveal a better understanding of the evolution of the Universe.

To do this, he studies what is called quark-gluon plasma (QGP).

Scientists believe that for the first millionths of a second of its existence, the Universe was dominated by this strange QGP, which only exists at very high temperatures – around a trillion Celsius.

While many have heard of protons and neutrons in school atomic structure lessons, these are actually made up of smaller particles called quarks, which are held together by particles called gluons. And at a trillion degrees Celsius, quarks and gluons melt and become quark-gluon plasma. At the birth of the universe – what we call the Big Bang – most of the Universe was made of QGP.

There are only two places in the Universe where we can be sure QGP is being created today – the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collision (RHIC) experiment in New York State and at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC ) at CERN, Geneva.

So Thomas is using state-of-the-art particle simulations to better understand what happens when quarks are heated to a trillion degrees and learn more about the development of the Universe.

The results of his research will have important implications for ongoing experiments at RHIC and CERN.

Speaking of his interest in entering, he said: “Communicating to a wider audience, it really forces you to scrutinize every step of your research. You have to check every detail and make sure you really understand everything before you explain it. But in return, you get the chance to watch the work that you’ve done and think, ‘I can talk to people about the content of the early Universe,’ and then it’s all worth it.”

MP Stephen Metcalfe, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Science Committee, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives Members of Parliament the opportunity to see the work of a wide range of the best young researchers in the country. These early career scientists, engineers and mathematicians are the architects of our future, and STEM for BRITAIN is the best opportunity for our politicians to meet them and understand their work.

Judged by leading academics, the gold medal winner receives £1,500, while silver and bronze receive £1,000 and £750 respectively.

The judgment will take place, in Parliament, on Monday 7and March.

Learn more about the contest.