Amber L. Thompson

Jan 202014

RKV-001Once again, the weather contrived to cause problems, this time with flooding causing closures to both the Botley and the Abingdon Roads.  Despite this, the speakers and organisers and, more importantly cake and lunch (!) all arrived in time even though some of the delegates were unable come (for those who missed it, the program for Red Kite V is available to download).

People who only had a short bus, cycle or walk arrived in good time for the first of the mini-plenary sessions which was presented by Prof. Andrew Weller from Oxford who discussed the preparation of an alkane complex by solid-state hydrogenation.  The session was continued by Jerome Wicker (also Oxford) (who eventually managed to remember his title) and was talking about predicting whether or not materials will crystalise.  This was followed by two more speakers from Oxford, Markus Gerstel talking about radiation damage in protein samples and Joshua Hill discussing framework materials.

After mid morning cake with coffee for those who were quickest and tea for those who weren’t (sorry about that – we will make sure there is more next time!), we started the second session.  This began with our second mini-plenary speaker, Dr. Arwen Pearson from the Research Complex and the Astbury Centre, Leeds, who gave a nice presentation that demonstrated how reactions can be followed in the solid state in proteins.  This was followed by three more speakers from Oxford:  Andrew Jupp talking about novel organophosphorus species, Rémi Tirfoin explaining how important single crystal X-ray diffraction is to organometallic chemists and Andrew Johnston telling us about benzoylmethylecgonine – a simple compound whose structure is more complex that you would think.

Lunch was accompanied by posters and the room was a constant buzz as people mixed munching with science, before the final session began.  The mini-plenary was presented by Prof. Mike Glazer (Oxford) who demonstrated how important it can be to get space groups right and what effect it can have on a phase diagram.  This was followed Dr. Mark Warren (Diamond) explaining how the facilities on the small-molecule beamline I19 can help you follow a reaction.  Next was Dr. Lynne Thomas from the Research Complex and Bath, who showed how you can use a range of techniques to understand the structure of materials as complex as Sitka Spruce (aka aircraft wood).  The final speaker of the day was Dr. Tristan Youngs (ISIS) who explained how complex amorphous systems could be studied using neutrons.  The meeting was brought to a close with the awarding of the obligatory tweeting poster prizes which were given to the nicely alliterating Joe, Jerome and Jamie (Paddison, Wicker and Lawler, respectively);  congratulations to them.

The day finished with a drinks reception giving people who had missed the best posters a chance to talk to the winners.  Once again, everyone seemed to enjoy the day.  We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at the next meeting which will be held on the Harwell site over the summer.

Finally, the organisers would like to thank all the excellent speakers, delightful attendees, esteemed poster judges, kind souls who helped set up the rooms, and especially the John Fell Fund who provided sustenance:  together you made this another fantastic meeting.

Mar 122013

The Big Bang Fair is a free educational event open to visiting school groups that happens in March every year moving round the country. It works with partner organisations across business and industry, government and academia to try and give a flavour of the real scale of engineering and science in the UK, aimed at showing young people (primarily aged 7-19) just how many exciting and rewarding opportunities there are out there for them with the right experience and qualifications.

This year the Big Bang Fair is being held in the London, ExCeL Arena, 14th-17th March. Since 2013 is the Bragg centenary, STFC have very kindly funded a stand at this year’s fair, which will be totally dedicated to crystallography. The BCA, Diamond Light Source, ISIS and STFC have worked together to develop the stand designed to tell everyone how great crystallography is through the medium of hands on activities, lasers, and sweets. The fair is expecting 75,000 people (mostly children) through the doors over the course of four days, so Andrew Cairns, Josh Hill, Nick Funnell, Mike Glazer, George Pidgeon, Karim Sutton and Amber Thompson are all going along from Oxford to help out. Here are some photos of the first day.

Lego Beamline

Two crystallographers check the interlocks on the Lego Beamline

You are never too young to learn about packing...

You are never too young to learn about packing…

...especially when there's sweets involved!

…especially when there’s sweets involved!

Teaching physicists chemistry

Teaching physicists chemistry

George demonstrates the Lego Beamline

George demonstrates the Lego Beamline

Smelly molecules

Smelly molecules

Demonstrating Fourier transforms takes concentration

Demonstrating Fourier transforms takes concentration

Growing a crystal, one marble at a time

Growing a crystal, one marble at a time

Protein crystals ar

Protein crystals are beautiful

The Crystallography stand at the Big Bang

The Crystallography stand at the Big Bang


The Big Bang Logo

Jan 172013

The third Red Kite Meeting was very well attended and comments from attendees indicated that it was very well received.  As well as Richard Cooper chairing the first session, contributions from Chem. Cryst. included posters from Will Brennan, George Pidgeon, Olivia Shehata, Karim Sutton and Jerome Wicker and a presentation from Kirsten Christensen on modulated molecular materials.  The esteemed poster judges picked George’s poster on hydrogen bonding in fluoride complexes as one of two joint prize-winning efforts thanks to the clarity of his presentation.

Pidgeon Catches Kite at RKIII

Pidgeon Catches Kite at RKIII

Dec 212012

The third meeting of the Red Kite network will be held on Thursday 10th January, 2013 in the Main Lecture Theatre in the Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford.  Attendance will be courtesy of the John Fell Oxford University Research Fund.  The meeting will consist of three sessions, each commencing with a half hour Plenary delivered by a leading academic, followed by three shorter talks by younger researchers.

Please check out the program for more details and email Amber L. Thompson (amber.thompson @ BY MONDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER, if you would like to attend the lunch and the drinks reception after the meeting (these will only be available to registered attendees).


Nov 292012

As part of the Bragg Centenary Celebrations, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed the history of crystallography, the study of crystals and their structure on “In Our Time” on BBC Radio 4. His guests were Prof. Judith A. K. Howard (University of Durham), Dr. Christopher Hammond (University of Leeds) and Prof. Mike Glazer (University of Oxford).

The program began with the work of Johannes Kepler in the 17th century, and focussed on the work of the father-and-son team the Braggs in 1912.  It also covered aspects of the the work of the German physicist Max von Laue who had proved that X-rays are a form of light waves and that it was possible to scatter these rays using a crystal and some of the most significant scientific findings of the last century – such as revealing the structure of DNA.

The program is available on line from the “In Our Time” website.

Nov 242012

Every year, Oxford Inspires organises an evening of social and cultural events in the centre of Oxford following the theme of Christmas Lights.  A lot of the institutions within the city get involved, and this year that included Amber, who was invited to give a presentation at the Snowflake exhibition held at the History of Science Museum.  The event was held on Friday, 23 November and the Museum opened at 6pm with talks from 7pm in the Gallery (that’s the basement to anyone else, so Amber felt at home).   Activities included:

  • Mirror Snowflakes – Create an infinite variety of symmetrical snowflakes with the help of a pair of mirrors.
  • Paper Crystals – Make your own snowflake decorations for Christmas.
  • Dr. Judith V. Field (Birkbeck College, London), “When Stars of Snow Fell on Kepler’s Coat
  • Dr. Amber L. Thompson (University of Oxford), “Why Is Snow So Beautiful?

The evening was very well attended with a very mixed audience.

Why is Snow So Beautiful?

Nov 012012

Presented by: Vanessa E. Fairbank & Dr. Amber L. Thompson
Research Leader: Dr. Andrew L. Goodwin
Published: Physical Review B

Cubic Cd(CN)2 shows the strongest known isotropic negative thermal expansion (NTE; volume contraction on heating).  Variable-temperature single-crystal X‑ray diffraction suggests there is temperature-dependent off-centering of Cd2+ ions that has the effect of increasing the cadmium coordination volume at low temperatures, providing an alternate mechanism for NTE in this material. These displacements are evident in the residual electron density and the highly-structured diffuse scattering in the experimental X-ray diffraction patterns.  Using Monte Carlo simulations, we have interpreted these patterns in terms of a basic set of “ice-rules” that establish a mapping between the dynamics of Cd(CN)2and proton ordering in cubic ice VII.

Structure of the Month – November 2012

Structure of the Month – November 2012


Oct 292012

This report of Karim’s and Will’s Quizmastery last Wednesday was written by the Royal Blenheim Barman and posted on their website:

The quiz last Wednesday was written Karim & Will, with a little help from Will’s dad (they say tutor, but I’m going with dad). It was their first time setting the Blenheim quiz and they did very well, judging the level accurately, apart from the connection round. We were incredibly well attended with 12 teams taking part, all of which getting gradually annoyed at the compilers sway towards a certain boyband!

The Handout Rounds were ‘Google doodles’, celebrities drawn on toast with Marmite and a ‘Get the Picture’ of the members of the boyband (is boyband 1 or 2 words? – Who cares? – Ed) One Direction. The sound rounds were the top 5 YouTube videos and covers of songs, some of which I’d never heard of. Us oldies did struggle a little.

My favourite question was the ‘if you were’ question of 200m from the 3 Goats Heads, 70m from All Bar 1, 400m from the 4 Candles and 30m from Next 2 Nothing, in which Oxford business would you be? The answer being Pie Minister which would have been obvious if you notice that the numbers in the business stated were 3.142!

The quiz was won controversially by the quiz setters own team (hmmmmmmm?). The cheese won by a regular team who were not strong enough to hold back a very hungry French woman: she ate all their cheese, haha! The money, £180, was also won by Pembroke JCR.

The next quiz is being written by me. It is being held on Hallowe’en so expect it to be themed!

See you Wednesday, true believers!