Our experience and achievements in 2020-2021

Lockdown, childcare, 3 continents and research

Drawing Feynman diagrams with the kids, lockdown in 2020.

Since 12 March 2020 we have been working from home, and currently our group members are dispersed over 3 continents.

Our research activities have been heavily impacted by COVID lockdown restrictions in the UK, especially and Brian (senior postdoc) and me (Dermot, PI) who had to assume significant additional childcare duties for prolonged periods.

We had to come up with new ways of working. For example, I discovered that 2 year olds can help me draw Feynman diagrams (see image from my garden below).

Despite the challenges, we’ve stuck together and supported each other. We’ve made some groundbreaking progress, including developing the first ab initio description of positron binding in molecules (stay tuned!).

Innovative Connected Learning

Conscious of the possible disconnect between lecturer and students in fully online delivery of mathematics/physics lectures, Andrew Swann and I proposed the development of a lightboard for the School of Mathematics and Physics. We secured £2,000 from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences to build a working prototype. Dermot built his own at home, and the Physics workshop manager Philip Orr built a second one on campus, available for the EPS staff. Andrew and I delivered our Tensor Field Theory Course via lightboard to 3rd year Mathematics and Theoretical Physics students. (See the example below, which shows one of Dermot’s pre-recorded video lectures using his home-made lightboard.) Dermot used his during live tutorials also.

Dermot’s home-made “lightboard”, which he built to deliver his online lectures in Tensor Field Theory

Via anonymous quantitative feedback, the students overwhelmingly found the lightboard delivery led to a greater feeling of connectedness, that it was a superior mode of delivery than screencasting/voice-over-powerpoint or tablet.


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