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Physics by the Lake 2018

Event description

What is it?

Physics by the Lake is a national summer school on theoretical condensed matter physics supported by the Institute of Physics (IOP) Theory of Condensed Matter group and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It consists of two weeks of high-quality lecture courses by experts in the field, as well as tutorials to give thorough training in solving real problems. There is also a series of after-dinner seminars.

There is a substantial fee reduction for UK-based EPSRC-funded postgraduate students (or those who would have qualified for such funding). A limited number of IOP-funded sponsorships are available for other UK-based students to reduce the full fee for the school. See below for more information about fee rates.

When is it?

The next Physics by the Lake is planned to take place from July 29th to August 10th, 2018. Lectures begin on Monday 30th July and the school will finish after lunch on Friday 10th August.

Where is it?

As in 2016 and 2017, the School will take place at the unique venue - Cumberland Lodge in the heart of Windsor Great Park. Previously it has been held in the Lake District and on the Cumbrian coast.

See the Location page for more information.

Who should come to it?

It is primarily aimed at Ph.D. students in theoretical condensed matter physics typically at the end of their first year. Theoretically-inclined experimental condensed matter physics students are also strongly encouraged to take part.

What will happen during the school?

The lectures fall into two sets, core subjects and applications. The first set contains four courses each of which comprises six lectures and two tutorials. The second set is varied in length, style and subject matter.

As a guide as to what to expect in 2018, the core courses in 2016 were:

  • Strongly correlated quantum systems (Dr Chris Hooley, University of St Andrews)
  • Statistical mechanics (Dr Richard Blythe, University of Edinburgh)
  • Electronic structure (Dr Martin Lüders, Daresbury)
  • Cold matter and quantum fluids (Dr Marzena Szymanska, University College London)

The applications courses were:

  • Quantum information processing (Prof Andrew Fisher, University College London)
  • Soft condensed matter (Dr Buddhapriya Chakrabarti, Durham University)
  • Mesoscopic Physics and Quantum Coherence (Dr Eran Ginossar, Surrey)
  • Physics of biological evolution (Dr Bartlomiej Waclaw, Edinburgh)
  • Topological phases (Dr Sam Carr, Kent)
  • Unconventional superconductivity (Dr Jorge Quintanilla, Kent)

The Lectures page will be updated with more detailed information when this is available.

How much does it cost?

The full fee for attending the school in 2018 is £TBA. This fee covers full board and lodging in comfortable shared-room accommodation and internet access as well as the full academic programme (lectures, tutorials, seminars and a full set of printed notes).

If your Ph.D. is funded by the EPSRC a significant contribution towards your fee will be paid directly to us by the EPSRC. For these students the amount to pay is £TBA. This also goes if you are funded by a University, College or other similar scholarship but would have qualified for EPSRC funding. In return for this generosity, all we ask of you is to commit yourself to the entire school.

A limited number of places with reduced fees can be offered to other UK-based students, through sponsorship provided by the Institute of Physics Theory of Condensed Matter group. Overseas students will typically be required to pay the full cost from their own funds.

How do I apply?

Applications to the school take place online. The application period is provisionally scheduled as March 11 2018 to April 21 2018 but these dates are subject to change. If you are applying for an EPSRC-funded place, note that in previous years the school has been over-subscribed and we have had to allocate places on a first-come first-served basis (see next question).

Application is a two-part process. You will first be asked to register your details electronically via the website. Since we require a signed declaration from both you and your Ph.D. supervisor, your application will not be complete until we have received a scanned copy of your signed application form.

What happens if the school is over-subscribed?

For a number of years, the school was over-subscribed and we have unfortunately had to turn away applications from well-qualified students. From 2010, we have considered all applications for EPSRC-funded places at the school that were received before the closing date. Whilst we may give priority to applications from students in their first year of a predominantly theoretical Condensed Matter Ph.D., we have generally allocated on a first- come first-served basis. You are therefore encouraged to get your application in as soon as you can.

How should I prepare for the poster sessions?

We will be holding two poster sessions during the school so that students can find out a bit about each other's research. Please bring a poster up to a maximum of A0 portrait size (84cm wide and 119cm tall). You will be informed at the school which of the two sessions you will present at: you will have an opportunity to give a one-minute verbal introduction to the whole group, so come prepared to say a few words about who you are and what you do.

What did previous students think?

Students who attended the school reported that the following were the best things about the school:

  • It gave me a good understanding in a wide range of topics and was very interesting.
  • The chance to hear about interesting physics outside my area of research.
  • There are many motivated and well prepared lecturers (and seminar speakers) which helped me to get excited and inspired about our field of research and think about problems from alternative perspectives and become aware of new questions.
  • It was great to get the opportunity to meet other people at a similar point in their PhDs.
  • The poster sessions were very very good - and the short introductory talks as well.
  • Accommodation and food were both good.

There will almost certainly be someone in your research group or department - another student, or possibly even some of the lecturers - who attended a previous Physics by the Lake / Physics by the Sea Summer School. Why not ask them what they got out of it?

Are lecture notes available?

A full set of lecture notes and solutions to problems will be handed out to you at the school. Lecture notes from previous schools are available to former participants on the Resources page. If you are a Ph.D. student in Condensed Matter Theory and would like to get access to these resources, please follow the instructions there.

Why is it called Physics by the Lake?

The very first EPSRC / IOP school in Condensed Matter Theory (in the late 90s) was held at the Charlotte Mason college in Ambleside, which at that time was part of Lancaster University. The presence of Windermere in the proximity of the college lent the school its distinctive moniker. The school was held each year until 2010 at the same venue, despite two name changes (to the University of Cumbria via St Martin's College) in the intervening period. In 2010, the University of Cumbria decided to close the college, although it is slated to reopen in the future.

Since then, the Condensed Matter Theory school has led a nomadic existence, first of all camping out at St Bees school in Cumbria for two years. During this time it was known as Physics by the Sea. It then put its weary feet up for 2013, before making the trek down to Chicheley Hall in rural Buckinghamshire in 2014 and Royal Berkshire in 2015. With the expectation of the school being a touring exhibit for the foreseeable future, we have decided to revert to the original name of Physics by the Lake for all time coming.

Wherever you shall find us, there will always be a lake. Windsor Great Park boasts the splendid Virginia Water a few minutes' walk from Cumberland Lodge.

I have a question that's not answered here!

If you have a general enquiry about the school, please direct it at Any problems with the website should be aimed at


Physics by the Lake 2018


Cumberland Lodge, Windsor
The Great Park

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