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Graeme Smith

Lecturer in Physics
Department of Physics

I have been a lecturer at Somerville since 2001, but I first came to Oxford in 1993 to read Physics as an undergraduate (at Oriel College). I was part of the first cohort to study for the MPhys degree, and I enjoyed the experience enough that I decided to apply for a research degree.

In 1997 I started work on my DPhil under the supervision of Professor Dame Carole Jordan (who retired from teaching at Somerville several years ago), having worked with her on my fourth year undergraduate project. I started teaching at Somerville directly after completing my thesis.

Most of my research, including my thesis, has concerned a long-standing problem in understanding the brightness of helium emission lines seen in the ultraviolet spectrum of the solar atmosphere. My interest in astrophysics dates back to a young age, but it was rekindled by a look at Kepler’s laws in A-level physics. It was probably that spark that inspired me to apply for my first degree (although the influence of my long time love of science fiction should not be underestimated).

Although the course has changed somewhat since my own undergraduate days, I think that my experience is still relevant in understanding the challenges that current Oxford physics students face, and I hope that this informs my teaching. A few words of encouragement to those taking only one maths A-level: I did not study Further Maths, and as a result the first year maths on the Physics course came as a bit of a shock. Despite that, with hard work I managed to keep up, and I came away with a first class degree.

Outside academic life, I am an enthusiastic cyclist, and I commute to work each day on one of three bikes that are among my most treasured possessions. However, most of my free time now is monopolized by my two young children.

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