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Graduating students win international awards

The School is delighted to hear of the success of two of its 2012 graduating students in a major competition recognising excellence in undergraduate study.

The "Undergraduate Awards" scheme is run from Dublin, and has an international category and an Ireland category. The winners are invited to the Undergraduate Awards summit, which is dubbed "a Davos for students", held in Dublin in November. The President of Ireland will present the awards.

The International Winner of the Mathematics and Physical Science Category has been announced as St Andrews graduate Tiffany Harte. Tiffany had earlier won the prize within the School for the best MPhys physics project.

Tiffany (left) pictured with her two project supervisors.

In her project Tiffany created and tested a new computational algorithm to drive a spatial-light-modulator that allowed the efficient design of arbitrary shaped optical traps for ultracold atoms. This algorithm is characterised by its particular flexibility and precise control over the calculation process. One of the main problems associated with calculating holograms for the spatial light modulator input is optical vortex formation, as these vortices are difficult to remove once established. Terms actively selecting against vortex formation were included in the algorithm, allowing accurate, smooth trapping patterns to be generated. The project was supervised by Dr Donatella Cassettari and Dr Jonathan Keeling. Tiffany says "I really loved my project and was delighted that the Undergraduate Awards enjoyed it too! It feels fantastic to have my work recognised on a wider stage." She has recently started working for a DPhil in atomic and laser physics with the ultracold quantum matter research group at the Univeristy of Oxford.

Astrophysics graduate Elizabeth Cooke won a "Highly Commended" title in this competition. Lizzie's project measured the velocity of gas expelled from galaxies during and following a starburst, and was supervised by Dr Vivienne Wild. Starburst galaxies have an unusually high rate of star formation which lasts for only a relatively short period of time. Studying starburst and post-starburst galaxies can give insights into star formation in the early universe and how the star formation process shuts down over cosmic time. Measuring the velocity of the outflow of gas over time provides a potential way to discover some of the causes of this shutting down process and thus study the evolution of galaxies as they move from star-forming spirals to non-star-forming ellipticals.

Lizzie has recently started PhD research in galaxy formation and evolution at the University of Nottingham. She says "I was thrilled with my final year project mark and it's great to have it recognised by the Undergraduate Awards too."

Lizzie is pictured (reclining) with the ladies quiz team
that won the ladies students v men students v staff
Trival Pursuits Competition at the School's annual
undergraduate conference.

In the St Andrews Physics and Astronomy degree programmes all our students do an individual final year research project, which is usually within one of the School's research groups. For MPhys Physics and Astrophysics students the project is full time for their final semester, thus allowing a total immersion in the research experience.

First posted BDS 28.9.12