Fred Combley Colloquia

Fred CombleyThe Fred Combley Lectures are a series of annual lectures given by distinguished researchers in the fields of physics and astrophysics. These lectures are of general interest to the major areas of research in the department.

The series is named after Fred Combley, a former Head of Department (1990-1995) and Dean of the Faculty of Science (1995-1998). Fred was an experimental particle physicist who worked with leptons and photons, contributing in the mid 70s to the first high-precision measurement of the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon. His work confirmed that positive and negative muons had the same anomalous magnetic moment, set a much improved upper limit on the muon electric dipole moment and tested the time dilation formula of special relativity.

Despite the heavy administrative load he shouldered as Head of Department and then Dean of Faculty, he continued to be a conscientious and supportive supervisor of research students and an effective group leader. Fred was an inspirational and innovative teacher. He pioneered the use of personal computers in university teaching and learning, and later was the first member of the department to develop an entirely student-led lecture course. He was immensely popular with the students and much in demand as a project supervisor.

An excellent speaker himself, Fred was passionate about communication and an enthusiastic supporter of departmental seminars and colloquia. The bell donated to the Department in his memory recalls his habit of rousting colleagues and students out of their offices to come and listen to a seminar, even if its subject matter was not immediately relevant to their research interests.

The information for the invited talks is below, with the respective contact person in each case.

Schedule for 2016-17 Colloquia

Area of research Name Date, time and location

Particle Physics and Particle Astrophysics

Professor Takaaki Kajita, Special University Professor and Director of the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research (ICRR) of the University of Tokyo

Discovery of atmospheric neutrino oscillations

Neutrinos have been assumed to have no mass. It was predicted that, if they have masses, they could change their type while they propagate. This phenomena is called neutrino oscillations. Neutrino oscillations were discovered by the Super-Kamiokande experiments by studying neutrinos produced by cosmic ray interactions in the atmosphere. Professor Kajita will describe the discovery of neutrino oscillations and the small neutrino masses. The implications of the discovery of the neutrino oscillations will also be described.

11:00, Thursday 1st June 2017

The Diamond

Astronomy and Astrophysics

Professor Robert Kennicutt, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

Star Formation in the Cosmological Context

It is now clear that the conversion of interstellar gas to stars, along with the subsequent feedback from massive star formation are fundamental agents in the formation, evolution, and shaping of galaxies. Thanks to a wealth of new multi-wavelength observations from the ground and space our empirical characterisation of these processes is being revolutionised, yet our understanding of the underlying physical processes which trigger and regulate large-scale star formation remains mbryonic. This talk will review what we have learned in the past decade about the demographics and diversity of star formation in galaxies, its evolution over cosmic
time, and the empirical correlations and scaling laws that offer clues to deeper underlying physical processes of star formation and galaxy evolution.

Contact: Marvin Rose ( and Claire Esau (

1pm, Friday 2nd December 2016

Lecture Theatre 5, The Diamond

Inorganic semiconductors

Professor Manfred Bayer, TU Dortmund

Giant Rydberg excitons in the copper oxide

Contact: Prof. Mark Fox

2pm, Thursday 4th May 2017

Lecture Theatre 5, Hicks Building

Particle Physics and Particle Astrophysics

Professor John Ellis, King's College London

“Will the LHC reveal dark secrets?”

The discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC in 2012 completed the Standard Model, but the Universe contains many more dark secrets. What is the future of the Universe? What is the dark matter, which is denser than the ordinary matter? What is the origin of matter itself? What is the dark energy that is apparently causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate? What is the quantum theory of gravity? LHC experiments are now trying to reveal these secrets

Contact: Prof. Lee Thompson

1pm, Tuesday 22nd November 2016

Council Room, Firth Court

Biological Physics

Professor Daan Frenkel ForMemRS, University of Cambridge

"The puzzle of self-assembly and the self-assembly of puzzles"

A holy grail of nano-technology is to create truly complex, multi-component structures that self-assemble.

Most research on self-assembly has focused on the creation of `structural complexity'. In my talk, I will discuss `Addressable Complexity': the creation of structures that contain hundreds or thousands of distinct building blocks that all have to find their place in a 3D structure.

Recent experiments have demonstrated the feasibility of making such structures.

Simulation and theory yield surprising insights that can inform the design of novel structures and materials

Contact: Dr Rhoda Hawkins

2pm, Wednesday 8th March 2017

Lecture Theatre C, Hicks Building


Prof Guglielmo Lanzani (IIT Milan)


The eye is a fantastic organ of sense, by far the most important. The retina at the bottom of the eye is much more than a simple detector, as indeed it carries out a number of information processing tasks before connecting to the visual cortex in the brain. After a brief introduction on the general features of the retina I will discuss a new strategy we are developing to cope with blindness induced by degradation of the photoreceptors, typically a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. The prosthesis we study is based on natural elements, like silk proteins and carbon based compounds. The device is implanted in lab animals and a number of tests show the actual rescue of light sensitivity and visual acuity. This technology is thus extremely promising for repairing vision eventually in humans.

Contact: Professor David Lidzey

2pm, Wednesday 29th March 2017

Lecture Theatre C, Hicks Building