I only had one day home in Cambridge after Mallorca before I was off again. The next trip was to Durham, in the north of England, to attend the YTF9 conference. I had registered for the conference some months ago, and had checked the box to indicate that I wished to give a presentation, thinking of my Dipole Moment Dark Matter project. I had been granted that wish over the Christmas period, but had not yet come to preparing a talk, due to a combination of procrastinating and cycling in Mallorca. I therefore used the full day that I had in Cambridge to sit in the GSCR and prepare.
I adapted a talk that I had previously given on the topic. The talk had to be the same length (about 20 minutes), but now I had more results to include, so I had to excise some of the introductory material. I didn’t feel like it was my best quality work, but it was satisfactory.
I left for the train station early the next day. I had packed my new carry-on bag with sufficient supplies for one night and needed to carry it with me. After initial attempts to strap it to my panniers failed, I ended up rolling the bag along the ground as I rode my bike. I wondered how fast the small caster wheels were designed to roll, but everything ended up fine.
I was on trains for the next few hours. I took a train to Peterborough where the weather was miserable, and then up the East Coast Main Line all the way to Durham. I had pre-booked a seat, and so sat and enjoyed the rolling scenery. I arrived in Durham around midday, and decided to walk to the University to save on taxi fares. The fastest route that Google suggested was to walk along the river, which appealed as a nice idea to see some nice Durham scenery. However, by the time I got to the river, the path was muddy and not all that suitable for rolling a suitcase. I trudged on, and up the hill to Collingwood College at Durham University, where I would be staying for the night.
I checked into the college, picked up my name badge and walked back down the hill to the campus of the university itself. The conference was being held in a couple of rooms in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. I had timed everything such that by the time I got there, it was almost time to begin. I found the other Cambridge students who were there (Matt, Tom and Herschel) and listened through the various talks.
YTF stands for Young Theorist’s Forum. Almost all of the speakers and attendees were PhD students, making the conference feel something like a mock conference, even if the research was all valid. There were four sessions spaced over two days and two joint sessions. The Wednesday afternoon session had talks on Beyond the Standard Model physics, neutrinos, and lattice QCD. There was a range of quality; some where notably more interesting than others. During the talks I started to keep a tally of the number of times the incoming US president appeared or was mentioned, with the intention of running the tally throughout the year. From a particle physicists point of view, 2016 has been a year of cluelessness and despair, and many presenters seem eager to draw comparisons to the wider desperation.
The sessions were followed by a plenary with an invited lecturer from somewhere in the UK (high profile, considering the rest of us were PhD students). He talked at length about the status of particle physics, and then about his research,, which was about General Relativity which went quite over my head. This was followed by a pizza dinner and meagre poster session with an astoundingly high pizza to poster ratio. There was general mingling during which time I was able to eat about three quarter’s of a box and not feel like I was taking anyone’s slices. Many went out to a pub in town, and I followed, but not for long. I was still quite tired from my Mallorcan trip, so I retired early.
The next day I somehow missed breakfast, but made it in time for the beginning of the first session. I note here that it was genuinely snowing in the morning, the first such time it had happened in any noticeable amount since I’ve been in England. The first talk of the day was by Tom, one of the PhD students in our group from DAMTP. It seemed, however, that the other Cavendish PhD students had stayed out late (or some other excuse) and missed the talk, which had been somewhat expected.
The two sessions on the Thursday were on Beyond the Standard Model phenomenology and Dark Matter physics. I presented in the last slot of the conference. Reflectively, I think I spoke well and composed, but the paper-ready plots transferred poorly to the projector screen so I felt unable to fully convince the audience of my argument. I also felt the audience were somewhat disinterested since the promise of lunch and going home was just around the corner. I did all right, though I know my best is much higher.
We had lunch of left-over pizza and other assorted finger food. I went back to my room to pick up my suitcase, and then headed off to the train station with Tom, Herschel and Jesse (an Oxford PhD student coming to Cambridge to present a talk), but not Matt, who stayed on socialising. Given that we hadn’t booked our tickets together, we only barely managed to find a place on the train to all sit and chat. (Virgin Trains have optional reserve seating, making it hard to find a set of four seats that are all free). Like before, we changed at Peterborough, but a delayed train meant that we had to wait seemingly ages in the cold, before getting the tiny CrossCountry train to Cambridge.