Glasgow Science Festival: Understanding Illusions

In today’s blog, we chat to Jaimie, Angela, Antonio and Abby – four PhD students from the University of Glasgow who are preparing to bring fun hands-on science to Glasgow Science Festival this June.


1. Who are you and what do you do?

Jaimie – PhD Student in Psychology and I study what influences our social perceptions and interactions with others

Angela – I am a second year PhD student in mathematics. The focus of my research is to classify curves which look special at certain points.

Antonio – I am a PhD student in physics and astronomy. My main research is cosmology, which explores the history and evolution of the universe. My research topic is “dark matter” and gravitational lensing.

Abby – I am a PhD student in the nuclear physics research group at the University of Glasgow. My main research looks at how particles in the nucleus stick together. This kind of research will eventually contribute to materials science and medical physics – aside from teaching us more about the fundamental nature of the universe!

2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?

Jaimie – Yes I have, I like the idea of getting future generations interested and involved in science. Particularly giving back to the kind of communities I grew up in.

Angela – Yes, I have. The joy of encouraging young children about the real life applications of mathematics in our day to day activities.

Antonio – Yes, I have. I have been involved in several other activities. I’ve given talks because I like sharing with people all the things that are out there.

Abby- Yes, doing all sorts of activities, including hands-on experiments and talks. I want science to be seen as being available to everyone. Often, science can seem a little separated from society, when it is completely the opposite!

3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?

How do you know when you are being tricked? How do you know what it is you are really seeing? Working upwards from learning how particles explain magic to understanding optical illusions and logic puzzles, we will talk about not only how, but what we are seeing when we look at the world around us.

4. This year’s festival theme is ‘Glasgow Explores’. Where would you like to explore?

Jaimie – My main interest is the psychology of human social interactions from an evolutionary standpoint. So I’m not just interested in how social processing works but why we are the way we are. I’m interested in exploring the human past to better understand humans today.

Angela – At Glasgow Science Festival, we’re going to explore the mathematics behind a game and how to compute the winning strategy. This activity will let us to explore how mathematics can be infused into fun activities.

Antonio –  One word: Space.

Abby – I want to explore what makes everything here. Fields and particles and how they form. They are the basis of what everything we interact with is made from and the reason the universe is the way it is. I see it as the baseline answer to  ‘why?’ for anything that can be imagined!

5. What’s the best thing about being a scientist or engineer?

Jaimie – I guess for me the best part about being a scientist is that feeling of never really needing to grow up and losing that child-like sense of wonder and always asking “why?”

Angela – Being a scientist enables me to do research that can be applied in different fields of science. Concepts which purely look like mathematics on the surface usually have useful applications in other fields of study.

Antonio –  The best thing is the feeling of awe. When you interact and listen to other people’s research, you always learn something new, sometimes related with your area, and especially when you share similar knowledge which allows you to understand in a different depth the information they share.

Abby – It’s learning a truth as much as we can know one. It transcends humanity to being an innate understanding of the universe itself. Science gives us something to understand and allows the use of creativity, logic, travel, communications and more. It’s multi-faceted, constantly challenging and never boring.

Join Jamie, Angela, Antonio and Abby at Science Sunday on 18 June. For more details, visit the website.


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