Episode 5

full
Published on:

2nd Jun 2022

Stuart MacPherson

This month, our guest is Stuart Macpherson, Post-doctoral researcher in experimental opto-electronics in the Stranks Lab at the Department of Physics. Stuart’s research focuses on understanding the physics of solar photovoltaics based on perovskite compound, one of the fastest advancing solar technologies of today.

Stuart is also the founder of Sustain/Ed, a non-profit organisation that aims to provide sustainability resources to young students. One of their activities is the energy mapping challenge, aimed at primary school students(9-11 year olds). Through hands-on measurements and data logging, students increase their awareness about climate change and learn how to critically approach scientific problems and apply the knowledge gained to solve real world problems. The project has already been piloted at 6 schools across the country, and is now scaling up further.

Another activity that he has launched with Sustain/Ed is the Sustain/Ed learning module, an educational package which augments the KS2 curriculum in the UK by offering activities which reinforce awareness of sustainability and climate action while maintaining core learning outcomes.

For his projects with Sustain/Ed, in 2021 Stuart was recognised with the Vice Chancellor’s Social Impact Award. But how did his journey in sustainability start? And how does it relate to the technologies he has been developing? We will ask him this and more in our interview. Stay with us…

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Jump into the conversation:

[00:33] - Guest's intro

[02:13] – Background and how did he end up choosing physics?

[04:31] – Teacher’s influence in studying physics

[06:45] – Experience studying physics at St. Andrews

[8:40] – Starting St. Andrews Engineering Group

[10:06] – Weather balloon project to measure some interesting atmospheric properties

[12:07] – Building a RADAR device during Masters

[14:25] – Reason behind the PhD decision

[17:40] – Interesting PhD hiring process at Cambridge

[19:56] – Research at Cambridge is on compounds called perovskites that are useful in solar panels

[22:30] – Defects and problems associated with perovskite

[24:43] – In the news this month: Existing copper network cables of UK can support faster internet speeds only to a limit. Researchers say that additional investment is urgently needed if the government is serious about its commitment to making high-speed internet available to all.

[26:20] – Involvement with Sustain/Ed, a non-profit organisation providing sustainability resources to young students

[27:50] – Idea of Energy Mapping Challenge

[30:51] – Small grant to scale up the idea

[33:21] –Worked closely with the University of Cambridge primary school, designed an actual learning module – Sustain/Ed learning module

[34:17] – Novel inventions and innovation, what people are doing to tackle the climate crisis

[35:27] – Summing Sustain/Ed – teaching next generation science to the next generation

[35:48] – Goals and Future Endeavours - Sustain/Ed

[38:14] – Personal Goals, 5 years from now

[39:45] – Outro

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Useful links:

• Visit the Optoelectronic Materials and Device Spectroscopy Group (StranksLab) Website to learn more about their research.

• Read the article on this month's news - Existing infrastructure will be unable to support demand for high-speed internet

• Journal Article link of the news release - Investigating the upper bound of high-frequency electromagnetic waves on unshielded twisted copper pairs | Nature Communications

• If you want to know more about Sustain/Ed, visit their website at - sustaineducation.org

• To learn more about the Cavendish Laboratory, or if you are interested in joining us of studying with us, go to www.phy.cam.ac.uk

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• Any comment about the podcast or question you would like to ask our physicists, email us at podcast@phy.cam.ac.uk or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #PeopleDoingPhysics.

Episode credits:

Hosts: Paolo Molignini and Jacob Butler

News presenters: Simone Eizagirre Barker

Producer: Chris Brock



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About the Podcast

People doing Physics
The podcast exploring the personal side of physics
As fascinating as physics can be, it can also seem very abstract, but behind each experiment and discovery stands a real person trying to understand the universe. Join us at the Cavendish Laboratory on the first Thursday of every month as we get up close and personal with the researchers, technicians, students, teachers, and people that are the beating heart of Cambridge University’s Physics department. Each episode also covers the most exciting and up-to-date physics news coming out of our labs. If you want to know what goes on behind the doors of a Physics department, are curious to know how people get into physics, or simply wonder what physicists think and dream about, listen in!
Join us on Twitter @DeptofPhysics using the hashtag #PeopleDoingPhysics.

About your hosts

Vanessa Bismuth

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I'm the Cavendish's Communications Manager and I want the world to know about the extraordinary people that are working, researching and studying here.

Jacob Breward Butler

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Working in the Outreach Office of the Cavendish Laboratory, I run Cambridge University's educational Physics outreach programmes while studying a part-time Masters' in Education.