Physics by the Lake is a national summer school on theoretical condensed matter physics sponsored primarily by the Institute of Physics (IOP) Theory of Condensed Matter group with local organisation through the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics. It consists of two weeks of high-quality lecture courses by experts in the field, as well as tutorials to give thorough training in solving real problems. There is also a series of after-dinner seminars.

When is it?

After a successful return to in-person events in 2022 and 2023, the next Physics by the Lake summer school will run from August 5th-16th 2024.

Where is it?

The School will take place at the unique venue of The University of Stirling. So technically it is now Physics by the Loch. Previously it has been held in Windsor, the Lake District and on the Cumbrian coast.

Who should come to it?

It is primarily aimed at Ph.D. students in theoretical condensed matter physics typically at the end of their first year. Theoretically-inclined experimental condensed matter physics students are also strongly encouraged to take part.

What will happen during the school?

The lectures fall into two sets, core subjects and applications. The first set contains four courses each of which comprises six lectures and two tutorials. The second set is varied in length, style and subject matter.

In 2024, the core lectures are:

Applications lectures are:

You can see full details of the 2024 series here.

Future schools will have a similar programme, although some of the applications courses may be a little different, to reflect the ever-changing nature of contemporary research.

How much does it cost?

The full fee for attending the school in 2023 was £1000 and is anticipated to be the same in 2024, although this is subject to confirmation of the budget. This fee covers full board for two weeks and lodging in comfortable single-room accommodation and internet access as well as the full academic programme (lectures, tutorials, seminars and a full set of printed notes).

Physics by the Lake was previously funded directly by EPSRC, but that funding is now routed through Universities. If your Ph.D. is funded by the EPSRC you should be able to get the fee paid by your University from their EPSRC training budget. We are happy to receive feedback about whether this system is working.

We have received backing from many parts of the UK and EU Theory of Condensed Matter community which has enabled us to cut costs well below last years.

If you are a member of the IoP and its Theory of Condensed Matter group, you can apply for a bursary of up to £300, through the IoP Research Student Conference Fund.

We ask for partial payment (usually half the fee) at the time of registration, with the balance to be paid at a later date. We advise students to set aside the full fee for the school, but in many cases we hope that the funding we have secured may allow us to reduce the fee. This partial payment will be refunded if we do not accept your application to participate in the school.

How do I apply?

Applications to the school take place online. Applications usually open around the end of January, and close in the late spring.

Applications and payments will be made through a secure site hosted by the University of Edinburgh, UK. This is accessed via the Apply page on this website.

It is possible to pre-register for the school by emailing sopa.events@ed.ac.uk. You will be contacted when registration is open.

How should I prepare for the poster sessions?

We will be holding two poster sessions during the school so that students can find out a bit about each other’s research. Please bring a poster up to a maximum of A0 portrait size (84cm wide and 119cm tall). You will be informed at the school which of the two sessions you will present at: you will have an opportunity to give a one-minute verbal introduction to the whole group, so come prepared to say a few words about who you are and what you do.

What did previous students think?

Students who attended the school reported that the following were the best things about the school:

  • It gave me a good understanding in a wide range of topics and was very interesting.
  • The chance to hear about interesting physics outside my area of research.
  • There are many motivated and well prepared lecturers (and seminar speakers) which helped me to get excited and inspired about our field of research and think about problems from alternative perspectives and become aware of new questions.
  • It was great to get the opportunity to meet other people at a similar point in their PhDs.
  • The poster sessions were very very good – and the short introductory talks as well.
  • Accommodation and food were both good.

There will almost certainly be someone in your research group or department – another student, or possibly even some of the lecturers – who attended a previous Physics by the Lake / Physics by the Sea Summer School. Why not ask them what they got out of it?

Are lecture notes available?

A full set of lecture notes and solutions to problems will be handed out to you at the school. Lecture notes from previous schools are available to former participants on the Resources page. If you are a Ph.D. student in Condensed Matter Theory and would like to get access to these resources, please follow the instructions there.

Why is it called Physics by the Lake?

The very first EPSRC / IOP school in Condensed Matter Theory (in the late 90s) was held at the Charlotte Mason college in Ambleside, which at that time was part of Lancaster University. The presence of Windermere in the proximity of the college lent the school its distinctive moniker. Apart from a brief excursion to darkest Wales, the school was held each year until 2010 at the same venue, despite two name changes (to the University of Cumbria via St Martin’s College) in the intervening period.

In 2010, the University of Cumbria decided to close the college, and since then, the Condensed Matter Theory school has led a nomadic existence, first of all camping out at St Bees school in Cumbria for two years, before making the trek down to Chicheley Hall in rural Buckinghamshire in 2014 and Royal Berkshire in 2015. In 2016 and 2018 we were at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park.

Wherever you shall find us, there will always be a lake or a loch. Stirling features Airthrey Loch and Airthrey Castle and the rugged mountain beauty of Dumyat and the Ochils.

Who are the current organisers?

  • Dr Sam Carr, University of Kent.
  • Prof Richard Blythe, University of Edinburgh.

I have a question that’s not answered here!

If you have a general enquiry about the school, please contact sopa.events@ed.ac.uk.

If you encounter difficulties with this website, you may get a faster answer from richard-b@physicsbythelake.org.