Chocolate expertise

The science of what makes good chocolate has been revealed by researchers studying a 140-year-old mixing technique. The team in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy have uncovered the physics behind the process responsible for creating chocolate’s distinctive smooth texture.

Scientists have uncovered the physics behind the process – known as conching – which is responsible for creating chocolate’s distinctive smooth texture. The findings may hold the key to producing confectionary with lower fat content, and could help make chocolate manufacturing more energy efficient. A team led by the University of Edinburgh studied mixtures resembling liquid chocolate created using the conching process, which was developed by Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879.

Their analysis, which involved measuring the density of mixtures and how they flow at various stages of the process, suggests conching may alter the physical properties of the microscopic sugar crystals and other granular ingredients of chocolate. Until now, the science behind the process was poorly understood. The new research reveals that conching – which involves mixing ingredients for several hours – produces smooth molten chocolate by breaking down lumps of ingredients into finer grains and reducing friction between particles.

Before the invention of conching, chocolate had a gritty texture. This is because the ingredients form rough, irregular clumps that do not flow smoothly when mixed with cocoa butter using other methods, the team says. Their insights could also help improve processes used in other sectors – such as ceramics manufacturing and cement production – that rely on the mixing of powders and liquids.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved a collaboration with researchers from New York University. The work in Edinburgh was funded by Mars Chocolate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

For more information about science at Mars UK, visit their website.

Professor Wilson Poon, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the study, said:

We hope our work can help reduce the amount of energy used in the conching process and lead to greener manufacturing of the world’s most popular confectionary product. By studying chocolate making, we have been able to gain new insights into the fundamental physics of how complex mixtures flow. This is a great example of how physics can build bridges between disciplines and sectors.”

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Profile: Dr Katie Bouman

The recent black hole image, captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) – a network of eight linked telescopes – was rendered by Dr Bouman’s algorithm. Good article by Katy Steinmetz in Time Magazine online:

Though her work developing algorithms was a crucial to the project, Bouman sees her real contribution as bringing a way of thinking to the table. “What I did was brought the culture of testing ourselves,” she says. The project combined experts from all sorts of scientific backgrounds, ranging from physicists to mathematicians, and she saw the work through the lens of computer science, stressing the importance of running tests on synthetic data and making sure that the methods they used to make the image kept human bias out of the equation.

Bouman says that most of the time she’s not focused on the fact that she’s in a field where women are the minority. “But I do sometimes think about it. How do we get more women involved?” she says. “One key is showing that when you go into fields like computer science and engineering, it’s not just sitting in a lab putting together a circuit or typing on your computer.”

She  plans to continue work with the Event Horizon Telescope team, which is adding satellite dishes in space to the network of telescopes here on Earth that were used to produce the image released on Wednesday. With the increased perspective and power, she says, they just might be able to make movies of black holes in addition to still images.

“It’s exciting,” she says. And that’s also her message for the next generation who might consider careers like hers. “As long as you’re excited and you’re motivated to work on it, then you should never feel like you can’t do it.”

More here

 

 

KTPs – Graduate jobs straddling academia and industry

Thanks to my colleague Deborah Fowlis for this great introduction to KTPs

If you’d like to work for a local company and manage your own projects while earning a competitive graduate salary, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) may be for you.

What are Knowledge Transfer Partnerships?
The KTP scheme is one of the UKs largest graduate employment programmes and one of the longest running. It helps business to innovate and grow by providing three-way collaboration between universities, organisations and graduates.

Businesses link up with an academic or research institution, which then help to recruit a suitably qualified graduate, known as a KTP Associate. Employed by the university, the associate then works for the company on strategic projects, helping to improve business performance and increase productivity. As a KTP associate, the type of work you carry out depends on your qualifications and the company that you work for, but as an example, KTP projects could include:

  • reorganising production facilities
  • introducing new technologies to an organisation
  • designing new or improved products, processes or services
  • developing new business strategies and breaking into new markets.

With over 300 job opportunities available every year, the scheme can take from 12 months to three years to complete. Upon completion, around 70% of employers offer associates a full-time job, usually in a management role.

What sectors can I work in?
KTPs are primarily aimed at small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) but companies of all sizes, including not-for-profit organisations in a variety of industries can take part in the programme. You could work a wide range of industries, those particularly of interest to physicists and astronomers are:

  • engineering and manufacturing
  • science and pharmaceuticals
  • environment and agriculture
  • energy and utilities
  • business, consulting and management

What are the benefits of a KTP?

  • experience of managing a challenging, real-life project of vital importance to a business
  • opportunities to gain professional qualifications – often business related
  • a competitive graduate salary, usually in region of £25,000 to £35,000.
  • the possibility of full-time employment at the end of the project
  • access to a budget of £2,000 per year for training, £2,250 for travel and a further £1,500 for necessary equipment.

Am I eligible?
To be eligible for the KTP scheme graduates need a 2:1 Bachelors degree in a relevant subject or a Masters or PhD. You’ll also need the right to work in the UK.

To find vacancies online head to Innovate UK. Here you’ll be able to register your interest in the programme, create a profile so recruiters can find you and search current vacancies.

 

What can I do with Physics? Guitar valves to fluids to polymers to image analysis

Ewan shows how a degree in Physics can take you in interesting directions.

engineer canon medical

Ewan Hemingway, Research Engineer, Canon Medical Research Europe 

I first studied physics at Edinburgh University for the Computational Physics MPhys degree. I was interested in acoustics at the time and my Masters project looked at numerical modelling of guitar value amplifiers. However, one of the 5th year elective courses that really grabbed my attention was a series on soft matter physics, and this prompted me to pursue PhD opportunities. Following a recommendation, I joined an EPSRC-funded PhD in the Physics department at Durham University. There I worked on various problems in computational fluid dynamics, specifically in the area of active matter (the study of living fluids).

I was also lucky to gain some industrial experience through a consultation / research project with Schlumberger.

After my PhD, I stayed in Durham for two more years as a post-doc, where I focused on modelling flow instabilities in polymer physics.

Most recently, I joined Canon as a research engineer in the Image Analysis group. I have been there for just under a year, but already I have worked on a range of interesting problems, e.g., using deep learning for image segmentation.

Careers in Government Operational Research Services

What is Operational Research (OR)?
Using mathematical techniques and software to solve complex organisational problems. and make better decisions! “The science of better” www.scienceofbetter.co.uk.

Many examples worldwide include: workforce scheduling; building networks; processing queues.

GORS is the UK Government’s community of OR analysts,  600+ strong, working across 25+ departments.  Examples of their work: – Optimisation techniques to estimate the number of desks needed to minimise queues through airport immigration – Prioritise funding for development projects in rural areas

They require a numerate degree, they want physicists and they have current vacancies in Scotland.

Good case studies and more details here 

Thinking of doing a PhD? Read this first…

Vitae logo

The Vitae website is written for researchers and has a really good section on careers.

According to the UK Postgraduate Research Experience Survey most doctoral researchers cite a career-related reason for their choice to undertake a doctorate. Contrary to some expectations, research into doctoral graduate careers shows that the majority of people who gain a doctoral degree enter career sectors outside academia. In addition,  a significant proportion of people starting a doctorate do not have a firm idea of what they want to do as a career.

This post gets you thinking about some of the reasons for – and against – a PhD and busts a few myths along the way.  Read more here

3 Minute Thesis Competition- physics winner

The University of Edinburgh 3 Minute Thesis Competition final took place on 22 June 2018.  Nine finalists from three Colleges competed to deliver the best research presentation in three minutes with one slide. Warwick Wainwright (GeoSciences),  Gavin Woolman (Physics & Astronomy) and Sorcha Gilroy (Informatics) represented the College of Science and Engineering. Gavin won in the ‘People’s Choice’ category with his presentation ‘Better Thermoelectrics through high pressure’.

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Bridge between academia & industry: Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

What is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme helps businesses in the UK to innovate and grow. It does this by linking them with an academic or research organisation and a graduate.

A KTP enables a business to bring in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project through a knowledge-based partnership.

The academic or research organisation partner will help to recruit a suitable graduate, known as an Associate. They will act as the employer of the graduate, who then works at the company for the duration.

The scheme can last between 12 and 36 months, depending on what the project is and the needs of the business.

KTP is one of the UK’s largest graduate recruitment programmes. There are over 300 job opportunities each year . It supports career development and often leads to a permanent job.  For more information and national vacancies, visit their website

You can find more about KTP Scotland opportunities here:

Be aware, even if they don’t specify a Physics degree, the criteria for many vacancies connect well to a Physics degree so it’s always worth discussing with them if you are interested.

 

The physics of beer

beer soc

Dr Anne Pawsey is from the Institute for Condensed Matter and Complex Systems (research area Soft Matters Physics). She will be presenting with The Beer Society to show the science in your pint.

Interested? Sign up here

To tie in with this event next week, I thought you’d enjoy a few more stories about the physics of beer tapping, beer and physics, 5 physics facts you didn’t know about beer and the science behind the perfect pint. If your taste runs to champagne, see my earlier blog post

There are many opportunities for physicists in research & development in the food and drink industries.

Our very own Dr Tiffany Wood, Director of the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership works with companies from a wide range of industries including the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and drink and agrochemical sectors. Dr Wood is also on the Member’s Advisory Group of the Society of Chemical Industries (SCI) which brings together physicists, chemists, engineers, biologists and other disciplines working in a range of academic and industry contexts

The SCI has a number of Technical Interest Groups, providing opportunities to exchange ideas and gain new perspectives on markets, technologies, strategies and people. The Food group is one of the largest and it:

actively encourages university-level students to take up careers in food related subjects through competitions and through our programme of topical, challenging and interesting meetings”.

 

Astrophysics & success with the Hyperloop Team HYPED

Elisha Jhoti, 4th Year Astrophysics student, describes how studying physics helped her technical work with The University of Edinburgh Hyperloop Team.

Hot on the heels of Elon Musk sending one of his Tesla cars into space, the (rather successful) UoE student Hyperloop team are running an event next week around designing a hyperloop track.  More here

HYPED social media:
https://www.facebook.com/hypedinburgh

https://www.linkedin.com/company/10669902/
Website: http://www.hyp-ed.com

I am a 4th year Astrophysics student and I joined The University of Edinburgh Hyperloop Team, HYPED, this semester. Even though I have only been in the society for one semester, I am already consumed by all things Hyperloop.
As a physicist I was unsure how I could be of much help when I first joined HYPED. On the contrary, physics is the foundation of every engineering decision we have to make. How much force can this material take? What is the pressure force exerted on this vessel? How thin can this part be? All of these questions require basic physical principles to be answered.

My knowledge of physics has helped me provide a different angle to tackle problems from, in addition to conventional engineering methods. Rewind four years and if you told me I would be involved in an engineering focused society at university I would have never believed it. Before university I wasn’t really sure what engineering was. However, I knew that I wanted to learn everything I could about astrophysics.

From the age of 14 I was obsessed with all things space; and so I applied to study Astrophysics at Edinburgh. I chose Edinburgh because I knew they had a lot of flexibility in their degree program; allowing you to pick and choose from a wide range of courses, and I knew that studying at a prestigious, research-led university would give me opportunities that would not be available to me at other universities, for example, studying abroad. Last year I was studying abroad on the international exchange program.

When I came back I realised I wanted to get more involved in societies at my university which I had previously overlooked. I discovered HYPED at the Societies Fair at the beginning of my first semester of my fourth year. After attending the first meeting, I realised how passionate HYPED members were; it was unlike anything I had ever seen at any other university society; they actually cared
about what they were working on. I decided I wanted to be a part of the team.

After attending the first technical meeting, I decided to join the static team; their responsibility is to design the static components of the pod, including the structure and body. This seemed the most relevant team for my skill set at the time, and getting to design the structural components of the pod sounded like a welcome challenge. I joined the Pressure sub-team within Static; we design the pressure vessel that will house the dummy, and eventually passengers. I was very interested in this component, as the team had not tried to design a livable environment in the pod last year, so we were starting from scratch. The inside of the pressure vessel will be at atmospheric pressure; whilst outside the pod it will be close to a vacuum. I was interested in how our design ideas could be applied to other applications, such as space travel and
hyperbaric chambers; the possibilities could be endless.

Over the course of the  semester I became more involved in HYPED; after presenting on behalf of the Pressure team at our first society-wide meeting I was given the opportunity to attend the InnovateUK 2017 conference to which HYPED had been invited. This was an invaluable experience and allowed me to gain insight into the overview of the whole project and what the future plans for HYPED were.

Whilst speaking to engineering experts and industry delegates at the conference I realised the effect the idea of Hyperloop had on other people outside of our society. Many were excited and impressed at the prospect of Hyperloop becoming a reality, some did not even believe we were only university students. The reaction from these delegates made me realise the importance of the society; if we could already make industry experts begin to question their ideas about the future of transport then we were already beginning to change the game.

Being a part of the technical team in HYPED has made me realise how physics can be applied to a wide range of problems, and how the problem solving skills perfected during the physics degree can be used in any number of situations; from modelling completely abstract concepts to designing parts in an engineering project, such as HYPED. This is the reason I love physics; it can be used as a tool to solve almost any problem, as long as you have the physical laws in place, you can predict and model behaviours of particles, materials and forces.

When I chose to study astrophysics I did consider that perhaps I was choosing a very specialised field, which I knew I would enjoy studying, but that it may limit me. However, I have found this is not the case; concepts and skills I have learnt during my degree I have realised are applicable anywhere and everywhere, from solving engineering problems, to carrying out astrobiology experiments. I am looking forward to what new projects HYPED will bring my way and I hope that reading this blog has shown you how studying physics can allow you to use it as an interdisciplinary tool, helping you solve a wide range of problems that can help make the world a better place