Women in Physics - Superconductors Talk

Posted on: 07/03/2018

Speaker: Fran Kirschner (PhD candidate, Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford University)

On Monday 5th February, we were told to go to the Great Hall for a Physics demonstration involving liquid nitrogen. This information alone excited us but definitely did not prepare us for the mind-blowing information we were about to be given.

The demonstration was done by a Hatch End alumni, Fran Kirschner, who is a Fellow at Oxford University and is currently completing her PhD on superconductivity. She was very engaging, opening the talk with her education experiences after leaving Hatch End. It was very eye opening to learn about the opportunities we have after leaving school.                       

She demonstrated the exciting side of Physics, and how it can change the world around us, such as having your morning commute on a levitating train. Superconductors – remarkable and still not yet fully understood materials - are peculiar because below particular    temperatures they have no electrical resistance. Already the power of superconductors has been harnessed in Japan to build Maglev trains, which use strong magnets to levitate the carriages above the track.

Displaying expert skill with liquid nitrogen to cool down the superconducting materials to within a few degrees of absolute zero, Fran showed us phenomena cause by the strong magnetic fields. She showed how in the right conditions, superconductors can hover and even glide above a track in a process called quantum locking.

Strikingly, Fran threw the liquid nitrogen across the floor of the Great Hall, in a moment that left us in complete awe.

After the incredibly captivating demonstrations, we got the chance to ask Fran about further developments in  superconductivity, applying to Oxbridge and how useful a physics degree is in the field of work. This was fascinating as it showed the fun and practical sides of Physics, as well as motivating us to be the most successful versions of ourselves.

Written by

Halima Doski (11MWI)

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