The Rookie Researcher III: Touring the Cool Science Stuff

My university had an open day last weekend and we got to show our prospective physics students some pretty cool ‘science stuff’.

Science outreach is vital to nurture people’s natural curiosity and for those who love science – we mustn’t keep it all in the lab! Science is for everyone. Even for my 80-year-old grandma. It’s also important to ensure that they have fun and the mini-lectures are easy to digest. We always get excited when a prospective student is enthusiastic about physics, it’s very uplifting.

We will begin a tour around science and very exciting physics research, so…

Welcome to the cool science stuff tour!

The planetarium

One of our astronomy lecturers runs the planetarium for ‘Open Dome’ and Open Day events. My brain was distracted so I forgot to take a photo of the interior 😫 The next time we have an Open Dome event, you can check it out.

In the dome, we get a little tour of the stars and what will be glimmering in tonight’s sky.

We also had a mini-lecture on how different cultures perceive constellations and how we used the stars as a tool in history, especially for navigation and agriculture. Let’s also not forget the stone circles we can find all around the world.

I do love history so cultural astronomy and astroarchaeology are very exciting! You can read a paper here if you want to explore that area of astronomy.

Our teaching telescope

We headed to our observatory to take a look at our teaching telescope. With this telescope, students get first priority to use it. There are smaller portable telescopes available for students once they are trained in how to use them. A friend of mine took a telescope over Christmas to gaze at the winter skies. Plus, there will be an Observatory Support Officer to help you in looking after the telescope and when you need night-time observing.

Another fellow PURS researcher has Christmas lights wrapped around the telescope for their project in developing a flat field unit.

Bees! 🐝

The hardworking honeybees (literally) live behind the observatory. I wonder if we have a secret stash of honey somewhere…

A lecturer is researching how bees behave from vibration signals. You can freeze (not temperature-wise) an entire hive with the right vibration signal. After all, it is known bees are prolific pollinators of the majority of crops, so understanding their nature will allow us to look after them better.

They are behaviours I didn’t know they do, for example:

  • I never knew bees do the waggle dance to communicate with each other. It helps the colony know the locations of nectar and water.
  • The Queen Bees also sing a ‘piping noise‘ to communicate across the hive and against other royal rivals. It really shows who’s the boss.

Aren’t they such majestic little creatures and performers? 🐝

If you want to read more about amazing bee research there’s this article about tooting Queens and this about the waggle dance. Additionally, check out ‘The Hive‘ from Kew Gardens – our lecturer collaborated with artist Wolfgang Buttress to design the beautiful art piece which collects bee vibrations with an accelerometer. A wonderful piece of science and art!

The Imaging Lab

Our university has all the modern imaging instruments for your research and dissertation needs – and very supportive technicians.

The SEM I get to use for my research!
This wallpaper-esque image is used to find cancer cells from a patient’s cells.
My little outreach poster

Some PURS researchers got to showcase their work to prospective students! Here’s my poster.

Research update: my supervisor and I have concluded that we will return to scraping rather than scanning onto the cross-section. Hopefully, I will find those pores.

If you want to read more about my PURS journey, the special vault is here.

More pretty droplets

My partner, Ethan Elkan, has created new droplet array samples for his PURS project. You may have seen a droplet cat he printed from a previous post.

These droplets contain solid particles that spread to the side due to capillary forces, creating a visible ring – this is called the ‘coffee-ring effect’. Are you able to see the difference in thicknesses of the droplets? The middle image has their left and right sides thinner than the top and bottom. The first two images have the right side thinner. The last two images have the left side thinner. You can see an increasing change of thickness as the droplets are away from the middle droplet.

Now for a more detailed explanation…

Let’s assume this droplet is made of water and contains solid particles dancing around. It is also evaporating and sitting on a surface droplet with a constant radius. For droplets, the optimal way of evaporating is at the sides and not on the upper surface because of gravity holding back the vapour, and it’s easier for them to diffuse at the sides. Within the droplet, there are capillary forces moving all of the solid particles onto the sides, this creates the ring (as seen with the pink highlight).

And what about the change in thickness?

This happens when the main droplet is adjacent to another droplet. As both droplets are evaporating, the amount of vapour in the atmosphere is thicker on the left side of our main droplet. This causes the main droplet to favourably evaporate and create a strong capillary force on the right side. So more solid particles are built up on the right side. Hence the thicker part of the ring.

One application of this research can be utilised in ink-jet printers. Currently, printers produce blobs of ink for printing but the resolution can be improved if the ink performs the coffee-ring effect. At the moment, they’re just little blobs.

If you want to understand more about his research, you can read this paper here.


I hope you enjoyed the cool science stuff tour!

Until next time,


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