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The Merton College Graduate Scholars in Physics
at the University of Oxford

Merton College offers a number of Graduate Scholarships dedicated to the study of Physics. The Scholarships do not require a separate application: subdepartments of the Department of Physics nominate some of their most outstanding graduate applicants and Scholars are then selected from this shortlist by the Physics Tutors of the College. The only selection criterion is academic and intellectual merit.

The James Buckee Scholarship
was founded in 2010 by Dr James Buckee. The Scholarship is in all areas of Physics and has no nationality or other eligibility restrictions. It normally offers full financial support, including all fees (overseas or domestic) and a maintenance grant for up to 4 years. This is currently the most generous Graduate Scholarship in Oxford Physics and the only Merton Scholarship exclusively dedicated to the subject. On four previous occasions, matching support was offered by the Department of Physics, enabling us to appoint four Scholars since 2010. The next (5th) James Buckee Scholar will be appointed in 2016.

James Buckee

Dr James Buckee, a former graduate student at Merton, has held senior executive positions with Shell, Burmah Oil and BP. He was appointed President of Talisman Energy Inc in 1991 and CEO in 1993 and held both posts until retiring from Talisman in October 2007.
The Jackson Scholarship
was founded in 2007 by the bequest of James W. Jackson. The Scholarship is in Natural Sciences, viz. Biochemistry, Chemistry, Physics or Zoology. It is restricted to UK nationals by the terms of the bequest and offers full support (domestic fees and maintenance) for up to 4 years. The next Scholar will be appointed in 2019.

James W. Jackson
was born in 1925 and read Engineering Sciences in 1942-1945 at Merton College.  He was a Divisional Surveyor for Kent County Council for 29 Years.  James Jackson died in 2004, leaving his entire estate to the College. His bequest was for the "Jackson Scholarship" in the Natural Sciences to be open to British Graduates.

The Domus (Merton) Scholarships
There are two types of these scholarships: the Scholarships operated via the Clarendon Trust and the Merton Graduate Scholarships, which offer full support (fees and maintenance) for up to 4 years, sometimes in conjunction with Research Council funding. Scholars are appointed in all subjects, on a rotating basis. The latest competition in Physics was held in 2015.

Prize Scholarships
These scholarships reward outstanding achievement amongst our existing graduate students. There are four every year, open to all subject areas.

Old Merton

The Domus graduate scholarships were created in 1931, when the College received a bequest for this purpose from the estate of Sir Hildebrand Harmsworth (Merton 1892). In the 80 years since, the numbers of awards were expanded and they are now funded directly from the College income.

Our Graduate Scholars in Physics (since 2010)

G. Garces

Gil Triginer Garces
Merton Graduate Scholar in Physics 2015-2019

"I am a telecom engineer by training and a physicist by inclination, now working towards a DPhil in the field of quantum optics under the supervision of Professor Ian Walmsley.
   Quantum mechanics is famously known to be counter-intuitive, even troubling at times. We can describe mathematically certain quantum phenomena, such as superposition or entanglement, and use that knowledge to make correct predictions, yet we seem to lack a satisfactory interpretation of what “really happened.” Yes, we can shut up and calculate, but still the uneasiness remains. It is just not intuitive! This is why, in an engineer-minded way, I decided to pump this intuition by spending four years of my DPhil tinkering with quantum mechanics: building systems with quantum-mechanical features, exploring what new information processing tasks these enable and thinking what this tells us about the world. In particular, my research will be focused on the generation and characterization of big quantum states of light, and their use for computation and communication tasks. It is not straightforward to define what a big quantum state is (many particles? a superposition of many modes? very high entanglement?), so one of the questions along the way will be to characterise adequately the size of the states and the extent to which they are “non-classical”. Working with these big quantum states also provides an opportunity to ask questions about why macroscopic objects don’t exhibit quantum features in everyday life."

R. Fern

Richard Fern
Graduate Scholar 2015-2017
(co-sponsored by EPSRC via Oxford Condensed Matter Theory Group)

"Now this a story all about how,
My life got flipped turned upside down,
And you should take a minute just read this ad,
About how I became a scholar as a Merton grad.

In Lincolnshire I was born and raised,
But Merton's where I spent my undergrad days,
Chillin', doing Physics, the whole thing did rule,
And then I earnt the Scott Prize, which felt pretty cool,

Then a couple of areas that I thought were good,
Started looking tempting to be understood,
So I got in one interview process to which they said 'great,
You're working with Steve Simon on topological states'.

In a normal state it's the order that's clear,
Like a solid which arranges with atoms all near,
But a topological phase is so much more rare,
And quantum computing is possible there!

This ... boils ... down to anyons found in many such states,
Which if braided around form logic gates!
And this is my work, I'm finally there,
To research some theories that could lead anywhere."

Adrian Menssen
Image by John Cairns

Adrian Menssen
The 4th James Buckee Scholar 2014-2018
(co-sponsored by Oxford Atomic and Laser Physics)

"The nature of quantum mechanics seems to be counter-intuitive at first glance and very far from the reality that we experience. However, its elegance is undeniable to any physicist studying it. The strangeness is precisely what makes it so interesting. I have been intrigued by it from the very first encounter in my academic curriculum.
   At Oxford, I work in the field of quantum optics. While I have a great interest in fundamental questions surrounding quantum mechanics, as an experimental physicist, I am especially interested in the realisation of experiments that help us find answers to these questions.
   The rising field of quantum information processing, in which quantum resources are used to approach computational problems, is of particular interest to me. Our ability to construct feasible architectures for quantum information processing is inextricably tied to our understanding of the fundamental concepts that govern the quantum world. Quantum optics provides an excellent framework for testing our knowledge of the quantum world. In my DPhil project, I want to develop new experimental methods that will enable insights into the fundamental aspects of the quantum properties of light.
   I started my career in physics at the Johan Wolfgang von Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, followed by Masters project at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA, where I worked on structural analysis of molecules using inner-shell photoelectrons."

Jason Sanders

Jason Sanders
Prize Scholar 2013-2014

"I am a theoretical astrophysicist working towards a DPhil on the dynamics of the Milky Way under the supervision of Professor James Binney. The Universe has structure on a vast range of scales, from the elements and molecules found on Earth to huge cosmic webs of matter which extend over millions of light-years, and our Galaxy, the Milky Way, is a complex structure that sits at the interface of these extreme scales. It consists of a few hundred billion stars, gas and a poorly-understood dark matter component. One of my areas of interest is tidal streams of the Milky Way. These filamentary objects are the result of smaller satellite galaxies that have been tidally disrupted by the Milky Way. Their structure depends on the shape of the Galaxy, so we can constrain properties of the Galaxy from stream observations. In particular they provide a powerful probe for the large-scale dark matter distribution in the Galaxy.
   I am also working on constructing complex models for the joint chemical and dynamical evolution of the Galaxy. This is a powerful combination for uncovering important information regarding the history of the Galaxy. Dynamics reveals the current state of the Galaxy, whilst chemistry uncovers the past.
   It is certainly a very exciting time to be involved in Milky Way research. In December 2013 the European Space Agency launched Gaia, a 650m space mission destined to take a stereoscopic census of around one billion stars in the Galaxy. In the coming years our knowledge of the Milky Way will increase rapidly, and many exciting discoveries are just around the corner."

Chiara Marletto

Chiara Marletto
Prize Scholar 2012-2013

"I am a quantum physicist doing research for a DPhil in Quantum Information at the Mathematical Institute, under the supervision of Artur Ekert. In my  intense, happy and fruitful time at Merton I have been mainly wondering about the nature of information and about its status within physics. One of the issues I am currently investigating, together with David Deutsch, is how to apply the recently proposed Constructor Theory to provide a fundamental theory of information within physics. Another intriguing line of my research is about how to find effective ways to transfer and copy information from one quantum medium to another – a task on which quantum theory imposes strict constraints. This has recently led me to consider the deep problem of how the logic of self-replication can be consistent with Quantum Theory.

Considerate la vostra semenza:
fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza.

['Consider well the seed that gave you birth:/ you were not made to live your lives as brutes,/ but to be followers of worth and knowledge.' Dante, Inferno XXVI, 118-120, translated by A. Mandelbaum]

Dante’s Ulysses stands out for his relentless, burning desire to expand human knowledge far beyond the boundaries set by conventional wisdom. A scientific researcher ante litteram, whose example is still inspiring to this day. Many unsolved beautiful problems are still waiting for us, out there: it’s time to sail out and address them. It will be a dazzling and adventurous journey of conjectures and refutations, tentatively tending to the boundless growth of human knowledge."

A. Karlberg

Alexander Karlberg
The 3rd James Buckee Scholar 2012-2016
(co-sponsored by STFC via Oxford Particle Theory Group)

"I did my undergraduate studies (BSc) in physics at the Niels Bohr International Academy, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, where I also recently completed my MSc, for which I handed in a thesis named "Space-Cone Gauge and Scattering Amplitudes". At Oxford I hope to gain a deeper understanding of scattering amplitudes in quantum field theories and in particular how to simplify calculations of amplitudes and how to apply these simplifications in calculations of real physical cross sections --- especially those related to the Higgs- and QCD-sector of the Standard Model.
   As the LHC has been running for a few years and with the recent discovery of what might be the Higgs boson, the field of theoretical high energy physics is very exciting and active at the moment. The experimentalists are really pushing the limits of precision calculations, and as a result there is a lot to be done optimising existing methods and getting past NLO calculations."

T. Scaffidi

Thomas Scaffidi
Merton-Clarendon Scholar 2012-2015
(co-sponsored by the Clarendon Trust and by EPSRC via Oxford Condensed Matter Theory Group)
Prize Scholar 2014-2015

"I am from Devant-les-Bois (which could be translated as "The Edge of the Woods"), a small town in the Belgian countryside. During my Bachelor in Engineering at UC Louvain, I developed a deep interest in fundamental science in general and in physics in particular. This was the reason why I did a Master in Physics at Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS) in Paris. I was funded by the ENS International Selection scholarship which admits ten science students each year after a competitive examination.
   During my second year in Paris, I did a six-month research internship at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where I used numerical simulations to analyze the feasability of a renewable energy source called nuclear fusion. I really enjoy working on intellectually appealing physical concepts that are at the same time promising for future applications.
   In this perspective, I am starting a DPhil in the field of theoretical condensed matter physics, whose applications range from solar panels to quantum computers. I will work with Prof Steve Simon on interacting quantum many-body systems, which include Fractional Quantum Hall Effect, high-Tc superconductors, cold atomic gases, ..."

Robert Lasenby

Robert Lasenby
The 2nd James Buckee Scholar 2011-2015
(co-sponsored by the Harmsworth Trust and by STFC via Oxford Particle Theory Group)

Robert's undergraduate studies were at St John's College, Cambridge, where he took the Mathematics Tripos, specialising in Theoretical Physics for Part III. During the summers, he worked in a variety of areas, including commercial research and software engineering. Immediately after his second year, he participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) programme at Caltech, as part of the Cambridge-Caltech exchange scheme, working in the Astronomy department on data analysis and simulations for a new instrument.
    He is now starting a DPhil in Theoretical Physics here at Merton, and is interested in topics including quantum field theories --- the class of theories that includes our best-established and most fundamental physical models, such as those currently being tested by the Large Hadron Collider --- and cosmology, the science of the universe on the largest scales and youngest times, especially insofar as it can shed light on fundamental physics.

Nana Liu

Yue Na (Nana) Liu
Merton-Clarendon Scholar 2011-2014
(co-sponsored by the Clarendon Trust)

"I am a recent MSc graduate in theoretical physics from the University of Melbourne and I majored in pure mathematics in my undergraduate days. I have worked on extra-dimensional brane-world models and before then, I studied various aspects of the modelling of granular materials at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne. I am fascinated by theoretical particle physics. I would like to learn as much as possible about the frontiers of modern fundamental physics, like quantum field theory, string theory and cosmology. At the moment, I am particularly interested in the AdS/CFT correspondence, which has applications that seem to transcend former boundaries in physics. Apart from physics and mathematics, I have very keen interests in the philosophy of science and aesthetics, evolutionary epistemology, palaeontology, entomology, music and literature. I do not believe in the effectiveness of studying anything in isolation and diverse interests, when conducted well, I think only enhance understanding, problem solving skills and the development of a more open mind. My wish in all that I do is to learn how to be a better thinker and how to make the most out of my imagination in order to see and offer more of the world's existing beauties."

Lewis Liu

Lewis Liu
The 1st James Buckee Scholar 2010-2013
(co-sponsored by Oxford Atomic and Laser Physics)

Lewis is from Short Hills, New Jersey, USA. Before coming to Oxford, he worked for two years as a consultant for McKinsey & Co.'s London office where he focused on energy, corporate finance, and M&A. Highlights included serving the European nuclear energy sector and energy development in Pakistan. During McKinsey, he also worked as a part-time physics researcher at Imperial College London. Prior to McKinsey, he had interned at CERN as a Harvard College Research Fellow in Geneva, Switzerland. He has an Advanced Standing A.M. in Theoretical Physics from Harvard University and was the first joint A.B. graduate in Fine Arts and Physics at Harvard.
    He now works in the Atomic & Laser Physics Department with Professor Simon Hooker. Lewis's D.Phil. research is focused on generating nanometer-scale-wavelength X-rays using quasi-phase matching to generate extremely high harmonics of a driving laser pulse. This is particularly exciting given the broad set of applications, such as fundamental microscopy, biophysics, chemistry, etc.
    In his spare time, Lewis is the co-chair and co-founder of the inaugural Oxford University UK Nuclear Energy conference, which brings together leaders in the UK nuclear energy sector to discuss the potential of renewed fission energy. He is also an active member of the men's tennis team at Merton.