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Mitchell Woolley

Natural Sciences Graduate Credited as Co-Author in Nature Physics Article

Mitchell Woolley, who graduated this summer with a degree in Natural Sciences, has been credited as a co-author in an article for Nature Physics after his contributions to a research project in 2019.

In the summer after his second year, Mitchell contacted Dr Simon Horsley to find a summer research project in theoretical physics. He was successful in securing a grant from the university and was able to work on the project over the summer. For his contributions to the project, Mitchell has been credited as a co-author in the article 'Zero-refractive-index materials and topological photonics' which was published on 07 December 2020.

The project was about electromagnetic materials that force light to travel in one direction, without any reflection. The materials theorized in this project might, for instance, be used to optimize telecommunication, where optical fibers transmit information as light pulses. Reflectionless media result in more efficient transmission.

Mitchell said that “a lot of the project for me was in understanding the most basic parts of the theory, and that meant understanding electromagnetic theory. The theory of light is described by Maxwell’s equations, and then I had to learn how to use them in a specific setting of special materials that channel light in one direction.”

Mitchell said that his degree in Natural Sciences was great in getting him ready for the project. Mitchell had switched from studying PPE to Natural Sciences without any kind of physics background. He explained that the course was friendly and instructive enough that after two years he felt prepared enough to work on the project. He said that the first year brings everybody up to speed in all of the sciences and noted that the course equips students in such a way that he could have just have easily pursued Biology or Chemistry. The course was set up in such a way that it was possible to make that change that allowed him to work on the project. Mitchell said that while the research was advanced, it was a good opportunity to get involved with current research.

Mitchell spent the rest of his summer in an internship in Berlin, studying particle physics. Before that, he had an internship in Berlin in 2018 at the end of his first year.

Mitchell is now studying a master's degree at the University of Cambridge, studying Part III of the Mathematical Tripos in Applied Mathematics, and is currently applying for PhD projects on String Theory after a project he did this summer.

Professor Geoff Nash, Director of Natural Sciences, commented “Huge congratulations to Mitchell and Simon on these exciting results! Mitchell’s ongoing success is a testament to the unique design of our Natural Sciences programmes, which allow highly able and passionate students to pursue the branches of sciences that interest them, regardless of what they have previously studied at school or college”.

Date: 18 January 2021

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