Michaelmas 2017 Christ Church Time Event

Professor Roger DaviesOn Wednesday 8 November we held the latest in our series of Christ Church Time events – a talk on astrophysics given by Professor Roger Davies, Philip Wetton Professor of Astrophysics, Director of the University of Oxford Centre for Astrophysical Surveys, and Student (Fellow) of Christ Church. The talk was attended by undergraduate students and academic staff from across a range of subjects, as well as non-academic staff.

Christ Church Time was launched in the 2016/17 academic year, and consists of a series of termly talks, seminars and concerts open to all members of Christ Church. The events provide an opportunity for members of the college to come together and find out more about particular subjects that they may know little about, through lectures given by leaders in their field. The series gives research staff a platform for discussing their work in more detail and presenting their research, and allows students in other disciplines to give performances.

The talk was entitled ‘Galaxies and Black Holes’, as summarised by Professor Davies: ‘We have discovered supermassive black holes, with masses ranging from millions to billions times the mass of the Sun, at the very centre of massive galaxies. The mass of this central black hole correlates with many of the large scale properties of the host galaxy, for example the total mass of the galaxy is about five hundred times the mass of the black hole. However, the direct gravitational influence of the black hole extends to only a minute fraction of the volume of the galaxy (about one billionth of the total volume). So how can such large scale correlations be established? In exploring this question, we will discover an unexpected twist in the story of galaxy evolution’. Following an interesting and highly engaging lecture, there was time for a question and answer session in which Professor Davies explained concepts such as the expansion of the universe, the big bang, and the size of black holes.

Professor Davies Christ Church Time talkAlongside his academic roles, including teaching undergraduate physicists, Professor Davies has also recently been elected as President of the European Astronomical Society. He started research working on galaxy dynamics, before moving to the USA, where, as part of the ‘Seven Samurai’ team he worked out a new way of measuring the distances to galaxies, and discovered the ‘Great Attractor’, a huge concentration of galaxy clusters in the southern sky. He moved to Oxford in 1988 to lead the UK’s participation in the construction of the 8m Gemini telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, taking up the post of Professor of Astronomy at Durham University in 1994 before returning to Oxford in 2002, where he was Chairman of the Physics Department from 2005-10 and Head of Astrophysics from 2011-14. He was President of the Royal Astronomical Society 2010-12. His research interests centre on cosmology and how galaxies form and evolve, and he has a longstanding interest in astronomical instruments and telescopes. In recent years he has pioneered the use of a new class of astronomical spectrograph to measure the masses and ages of galaxies, as well as search for black holes in their nuclei.

Christ Church Time posterWe've already enjoyed talks and performances from a range of Christ Church academics as part of the Christ Church Time events that have taken place so far. In Michaelmas last year, Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones, Honorary Consultant in Infectious Diseases, Vice-President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and Research Student (Senior Research Fellow) at Christ Church, gave a talk entitled ‘Understanding protective immunity to HIV infection – will we ever achieve an effective HIV vaccine?’. The Hilary event took the form of a concert held in the Picture Gallery, in which the Christ Church Wind Quintet, including four Christ Church students, played works for Oboe, Bassoon, Clarinet, French Horn and Flute by Taffanel and Walton, whilst in Trinity Dr Ros Holmes, Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, gave a talk entitled ‘Celebrating the Chinternet: Internet Art Practices in China’.

The series is an excellent way for all of the staff and students at Christ Church to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of our members and to expand their awareness of a wide range of different subjects. We look forward to seeing what events will be coming up in Hilary and Trinity of this year!