Uckfield science graduate wins top award for thesis


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A former Uckfield Community Technology College (UCTC) student is celebrating after being awarded the prestigious Institute of Physics award for the best thesis in gravitational physics in 2016.

John Muddle, 29 who grew-up in Uckfield was recognised by a judging panel of leading UK scientists for producing what they described as a ‘beautifully presented’ thesis with ‘an excellent overview.’

The Applied Mathematics PhD thesis John completed at the University of Southampton contained more than 39,000 words and included almost 250 pages on the topic of neutron star interfaces.

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John said: “I was shocked to be honest, a PhD can be difficult and a very lonely place to be. One sets out thinking that their PhD is going to change the world but actually you’re just a small part.”

The thesis was entitled Advanced Numerical Methods for Neutron Star Interfaces and saw John develop a new numerical method that allows one to combine two different systems of equations.

The Institute of Physics is a professional body for scientists which accredits degree programmes across the UK and aims to raise awareness and the understanding of physics through research and application.

Awards organised by the group recognise teams and individuals who have made a substantial contribution to the development or reputation of physics in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

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The Institute of Physics judging panel said: “Mr Muddle’s thesis was beautifully presented, with physical descriptions and mathematical explanations that were well balanced and highly complementary.’

“The thesis provided an excellent overview of the subject of neutron star interfaces, and was both engaging and enlightening. This is an exceptional piece of work” the Institute judging panel added.

In response to the award John, who works as a technical sales support engineer for the National Algorithms Group (NAG) in Oxford, said: “I am incredibly humbled to hear such praise for my work.”

John, who already has an undergraduate first-class honours degree in Physics with Mathematics, says he has a long held passion for science running through his childhood and school days in Uckfield.

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He added: “There wasn’t a eureka moment! Growing-up I had a series of books – the Dorling Kindersley books – ‘how things work’ with fold-out pages of tanks and cruise ships. Another very good inspiration for me was my maths teacher at UCTC – Duncan Curtis.’

“Today, the internet makes it even easier for young people interested in science” John explained.

For the prize, John was awarded £500 and the opportunity to speak at the BritGrav meeting 2016 – the BritGrav meeting is an annual meeting for academics whose research is connected to gravitation.

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