The Physics in Industry lecture series invites physicists to give a talk on their career and how they use physics for their work. There is usually a lunch before or following the talk, providing an opportunity to meet the speaker and network with fellow students and academic staff.

Physics in Industry Lecture Series

2021-22 Lectures

Talk Title: Using Physics for Innovation
Date: 18th November 2021 at 17:00 (GMT)
Location: Live online
Speaker: Dr Kate Oliver

Abstract: Do you enjoy solving problems? Do you thrive on variety? Do you love to learn? You might like a career in innovation consultancy.

All companies need to make choices: whether that’s how to solve a production problem, what new products people want, or what technology to work with in the future. For them, finding ways to do new things that will be of benefit to the business goes under the label of ‘innovation’.

At our small, friendly consultancy, Innovia Technology, we offer what we call 'holistic' innovation. We integrate groups of scientists, engineers, designers and more to help our clients — some of the world’s biggest, across industries from apparel to energy —understand their problems, explore options, and decide what to do. We find physicists have lots to offer across a range of sectors - whether that’s using fracture mechanics of snack food or modelling thermal transport across sportswear.

In this virtual talk, Kate Oliver, innovation consultant at Innovia Technology, will explain more about what the innovation sector is, what the day-to-day role is like, and what physicists in particular bring.

There will be an opportunity to ask questions following the talk, and you can also find out more on Innovia’s website:

Further dates in the lecture series are below, details for specific talks will be released shortly.

04 November 2021
02 December 2021

2020-21 Lectures

Talk Title: QinetiQ
Date: 09 October 2020 at 12:00 (BST)
Speaker: Dr Ruth Tunnell (Senior Principal Scientist - Energetics at QinetiQ)
View the lecture recording

Talk Title: Using Physics for Innovation
Date: 16 November 2020 at 12:00 (GMT)
Speaker: Dr Kate Oliver
View the lecture slides
Abstract: Dr Oliver studied as a physicist and now works as an Innovation Consultant at Innovia Technology, Cambridge. Day-to-day, this role involves collaborating with specialists from many different disciplines, to realise different projects for global companies. During her time at Innovia, Kate has worked in many industries including food and beverage, surgical procedures, and sustainability. This talk will give an outline of how innovation consultancy works and what physicists bring to it -  contributions which come not only through their research specialisms, but also through general physics knowledge and transferrable skills. Kate will also cover the career that led her here, which includes a MSci in 2009 from UCL, some time in science communication (at universities, a synchrotron, magazines and the BBC), and then a PhD in 3D printing shape changing soft matter at Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials before starting work in consultancy.

Biography: After graduating from UCL in 2009, Kate went to work in science communication as an assistance press officer in France. Following some time as a freelance writer, Kate spent three years as communications, marketing and events manager for the faculty of engineering at UCL, before going back for a PhD at the University of Bristol. Following four years working with nanomaterials, soft materials and 3D printers, the now Dr Oliver started work at Innovia Technology, a front-end innovation consultancy based in Cambridge. Past projects have included modelling packaging, stabilising snack foods, improving surgical tools, and finding technologies for the highway of the future. Studied: MSci Physics at UCL 2004-2009 (specialism in nanoscience and semiconductors), PhD Physics University of Bristol (2014-2019) in thermoresponsive hydrogels with the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials.

Talk Title: Physics in the Start-up SynBioSys
Date: 22 February 2021 at 12:00 (GMT)
Speaker: Dr Gareth Tear

View the lecture recording

Abstract: Start-ups in the field of materials and hardware development have many challenges beyond the usual risks associated with starting a business. In this talk I will firstly discuss the physics I use in my day to day work as a director of the materials innovation start-up, Synbiosys Ltd., from thermodynamics to laser interferometry. This will lead into the second half, where I will go into detail about my experience in starting a company, and how the laboratory physics ends up playing a key role in business decisions. This becomes particularly acute in the defence industry, where industry, academia and government all play a part in manufacturing, researching and funding. Engaging with all three sectors is critical to achieving success where all three sectors have different, and at times competing, objectives.

Biography: I studied for my PhD in the physics department here at Imperial college 2012-2016, investigating the ballistic properties of birefringent crystals. After graduating I was a postdoc in the department studying the impact behaviour of concrete until last year. During my postdoc I was a founder of Synbiosys Ltd. (, a materials innovation company, along with two other PhD graduates from Imperial College. I am now a director of Synbiosys Ltd., and teach part time in the Institute of Security Science and Technology.

Talk Title:
You want to be an Entrepreneur?
Date: 08 March 2021 at 12:00 (GMT)
Speaker: Simon Galbraith
View the lecture recording

Simon Galbraith is the CEO and co-founder of a 21-year-old software business employing about 400 people. On top of this he has had a significant role in creating multiple businesses worth silly money *despite* having a physics degree and PhD.

During his talk Simon will help you to consider whether, with your similar academic background, you should risk taking a similar path to his. Simon's presentation will have the same worrying flaws that you’ve become used to: survivor bias, feeble appreciation of the role of luck, contrived adversity stories and a tendency to paint himself as the hero ignoring the role that numerous others had in the successes.

Just about every lecture you’ve ever attended the person speaking is in some way being rewarded – either directly through a salary, to try to recruit you, to satisfy some obligation or to boost their kudos in their alma mater. None of these apply here. Simon gives no more than one talk a year and it takes him at least a day to prepare it. You have to ask yourself, as he is currently doing writing this blurb, why is he doing it? Should you risk attending to find out?

Biography: In 1999, Simon Galbraith co-founded Redgate Software with school friend Neil Davidson. Redgate primarily develops database and development tools for Microsoft professionals. In twenty one years, Simon has seen Redgate grow from a two-person firm run out of a spare room to today’s 400-person international outfit with hundreds of thousands of users.

Simon is in his forties and married with two daughters. He was state school educated until the age of sixteen, when he won a full scholarship to Charterhouse. He completed his undergraduate degree in Maths and Physics at Durham University, worked at Thorn EMI research labs, then went to the University of Cambridge to study for a PhD in (Shock) Physics.  After graduating, he then worked at Shell International as a Petrophysicist in the Netherlands before returning to the UK to found Redgate.