With my Go Abroad funding I travelled to northern California to attend the Amplitudes 2018 summer school at the Center for Quantum Mathematics and Physics, UC Davis. This school is an annual event hosted at different institutions around the world and aimed at first year PhD students in the field of scattering amplitudes. Scattering amplitudes are one of the most important objects in quantum field theory, the mathematics behind our understanding of particle physics and quantum phenomena. Amplitudes serve to confront abstract theoretical constructs with real world data from experiments such as the LHC at CERN, and are the tools behind some of the most precise predictions in modern science. Being at the forefront of modern physics the field evolves rapidly, with many of its most significant current research topics being discovered in the last decade.
The aim of the school was to bring students up to speed with current developments in the field, and for me it certainly achieved this. It was fantastic to be exposed to so many new developments in my subject, and by the people who actively work on them. I learnt a great deal about areas I was aware of but not particularly familiar with, and also learnt about topics I did not even know existed! As well as the academic material the school was particularly useful for me in that it was my first time meeting my peers in the global research community I work in. It was great to learn about what other PhD students are working on, share ideas and put faces to names.
As well as being my first time at a conference-type event in my field, the school was also my first visit to the United States. All the rumours and stories I heard beforehand about US immigration controls made me pretty nervous when boarding my flight from London, but it all went smoothly. Before the school I took the opportunity to visit Yosemite national park with some fellow students from Edinburgh, which was absolutely wonderful. The valley is incredibly beautiful, and it was remarkably easy to leave the crowds behind and wander into true wilderness. After the school I also had a day in San Francisco, which made a lovely break from theoretical physics and let me take in the sights and, importantly, tastes of the city! The chowder bread-bowls are incredible. I found the US surprisingly different culturally to Europe, but people were very friendly and eager to chat!
In all I had a fantastic experience during my time abroad, being fortunate enough to combine an invaluable academic opportunity with some really enjoyable personal travelling. For this I’m extremely grateful to the Go Abroad fund!