Thomas Spriggs, a PhD research student at Swansea University, is to present his physics research in Parliament, to a panel of expert judges and politicians, as one of the finalists in STEM for Britain 2022.
The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee runs the unique, annual event in collaboration with a number of distinguished scientific, learned and professional organisations. It showcases the best of UK scientific research being carried out by early career researchers and is in the only national competition of its kind.
Thomas is one of a field 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 is trying to reveal a better understanding of the evolution of the Universe.
To do this, he is studying something called quark-gluon plasma (QGP).
Scientists believe that for the first few 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 from atomic structure lessons at school, these are actually formed from smaller particles called quarks, which are held together by particles called gluons. And at a trillion 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 that QGP is created today - the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collision (RHIC) experiment in New York State and at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN, Geneva.
Thomas is using state-of-the-art particle simulations, therefore, 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 the ongoing experiments at both RHIC and CERN.
Speaking about his interest in entering, he said: "In communicating to a wider audience, it really forces you to scrutinise every step of your research. You have to fully check each detail and make sure you truly understand it all before explaining it. But in return, you get the chance to look at the work you have been doing and think, 'I get to tell people about the contents of the early Universe', and then it all seems worth it."
Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to see the work of a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. These early-career scientists, engineers and mathematicians are the architects of our future, and STEM for BRITAIN is our politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”
Judged by leading academics, the gold medallist receives £1500, while silver and bronze receive £1000 and £750 respectively.
Judging will take place, in Parliament, on Monday 7th March.