SET for Britain Physics 2006 at the House of Commons

I got my train down to London at 7:14 I think it was, on Tuesday morning; bleary eyed and tired armed with my poster, invitation, small A4 posters and a camera (travelled light due to the security restrictions). Managed to get on one of the new Midland Mainline trains with all the snazzy displays and stuff on it. The train left on time and got in five minutes early, far smoother than previous journeys I have taken down to London. Once on the tube I spotted someone else carrying a poster tube and got chatting to her.

At the Westminster tube station we bumped into more poster tube carrying people all destined for Physics 2006. We went into the House of Commons via a side entrance. This was my first trip to the House of Commons and security was pretty tight with the metal detector arches, X-ray scanners and police officers frisking us on entry. Once inside I found out we weren’t supposed to take photos and it became clear that the terrace marquee was nowhere near what I thought of as the House of Commons.

Marcus D. Hanwell at Physics 2006

I was in the second round of poster presentations, so once everyone had set up I walked round and looked at some of the other posters in the first round. There were some interesting posters being presented with some in similar areas to my own research. There was also one poster that was printed on A4 sheets and looked like a paper that had been printed and stuck up on string theory; I have never been to a poster presentation without at least one of these.

The poster boards were an unusual width which meant my A0 poster had to be cut down from the standard 84 cm width down to 75 cm. I have put a copy of it up here if you would like to take a look at it. It is a summary of the three main threads of the thiol encapsulated gold nanoparticle research I have conducted over the last three years. It was designed using the a0poster class and LaTeX using my favourite editor Kile on Gentoo using KDE. I have played a central role in this work but as with most work it has benefitted from collaborations with other researchers who have been credited as additional authors on the poster.

The poster boards were very closely packed in a zig-zag pattern. This made it very difficult when someone was looking at the poster facing mine and someone else came along wanting to look at mine and discuss it. When my poster judge came along she couldn’t even see my poster whilst I was explaining it to her which did not help at all. I think the traditional straight arrangement would fit a few less in possibly but it would be far better at a busy event held in quite a small room.

There were several prizes awarded at the event but none of us from Sheffield won one. I did talk to some interesting people on the day. My MP Richard Caborn never replied to me or my coworker and the MPs in attendance seemed to just want to look at their constituents posters, get a few photographs taken and leave. I have never encountered MPs before and I did find this behaviour surprising, but I have only attended scientific conferences before this event.

I had a quick look around the bits of the House of Commons we were allowed in after the speeches and prize presentations. Then I met up with a friend, James (edit_21), for a drink and a chat before going for my train. It was nice to catch up as I haven’t made it down to London in over a year. I ended up sat next to a chef on the way back up to Sheffield and had a really interesting conversation about everything ranging from scuba diving to careers and family.

It was a really long, tiring day. It was also probably the last trip I would make as a PhD student and so a little disappointing my poster wasn’t better received. I got straight back into work on my return and have only just managed to get a day out of the lab today to get some more of my thesis written up.

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