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Supporting Theoretical Physics

Professor John Wheater writes

At any one time about half of the hundred or so theoretical physicists in the Rudolf Peierls Centre are graduate students working towards a D.Phil degree. They come to learn how to be independent researchers in areas of science that often appear bewilderingly complex at first sight. They learn through being supervised by the senior faculty but also from working with each other – even theoretical physics these days is very much a collaborative venture.  We offer the most able students the opportunity to start their scientific careers in one of the world’s best Physics departments.  What is not so easy to see at first glance is the extent to which the graduate students actually contribute very significantly to the research that we do, in terms of ideas as well as in overcoming the technical challenges.  Without graduate students of the highest quality our scientific potential would be seriously impaired as would our influence – many of our DPhil students have gone on to join major university faculties all over the world.

Every year we admit about a dozen new graduate students in theoretical physics. The competition for these places is intense and outstanding young people apply to us from all over the world. It costs about £115k to fully support a graduate student through a D.Phil which typically takes four years to complete. Most of the funding that we have is ultimately from Government sources and the uses to which we can put it are usually restricted in terms of the nationality of the student and increasingly the scientific area that they can work in. The consequence of these restrictions is that we often find ourselves unable to offer funding to students of the highest calibre, particularly from overseas. They can miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime just because we do not have the funds to support them.

Accordingly the Physics Department has launched an ambitious Campaign to fund at any one time more than twenty graduate studentships across the department. If you have enjoyed our Saturday Mornings of Theoretical Physics and would like to support our research in the future then the best way is to contribute to the Theoretical Physics element of this Campaign. There are a number of ways of doing this and, just as was the case in our successful exercise to fund the new building, donations of all sizes will be important.  You can go to the Campaign for Oxford Physics page or contact 

William Thomas
Development Executive - Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences
 +44 (0)1865 611547


If you give throuprofile imagegh the web page above you can specify that your gift is to support Theoretical Physics by informing the Head of Department office. The University holds charitable status so, if you are a UK taxpayer, the provisions of Gift Aid apply.  If you would like to discuss a potential gift with us please contact Professor John Wheater or Professor Fabian Essler.

I myself am an alumnus of Theoretical Physics. In my formative years I was taught and inspired first by Jack Paton who was my tutor and then by Chris Llewellyn Smith who was my DPhil supervisor.  I very much hope that we perpetuate the tradition of Oxford Theoretical Physics for the next generation.