The 2013 Oxford School on Neutron Scattering

Interview with Ross Stewart


Ross Stewart

The 13th Oxford School on Neutron Scattering supported by NMI3 was held last September in St. Anne's College of the University of Oxford, UK. 60 students have attended the school to receive “an ideal introduction to the theory, techniques and applications of neutron scattering”.

Ross Stewart, the leader of the Excitations Instrument group at ISIS, is one of the school organisers and also the coordinator of the Neutron and Muon European Schools (NaMES), an NMI3 initiative. In the following interview he tells Inês Crespo about the story of the Oxford School, who attends it, and the program selection.

Inês Crespo: How and when did the idea to create the school come up?

The Oxford School on Neutron Scattering has been running since 1987, and previously to that was running as the Harwell Neutron School from 1966 to 1979. The school was founded by Professor Terry Willis of AEA Harwell, and latterly of Oxford University. Terry is a pioneer of neutron scattering in the UK and a founder member of the British Crystallographic Association (BCA). Since 1989 the school has been held at one of the Oxford Colleges every two years (over the years we’ve used Somerville, Keble, Mansfield and St Anne’s colleges to host the school).

How do you decide for the school program?

Oxford School 2013

The school program is based in classroom lectures and tutorials with no practicals. This aspect – of a pedagogic non-practical school – has been maintained over the years. Week one of the school covers basic theory of neutron scattering and instrumentation, while the second week covers specific techniques and applications. We’ve noticed over the years a steady level of interest in the school – mostly from physics disciplines, but also from chemistry, engineering, materials science, and this year, cultural heritage. The students are split roughly 50:50 UK:EU, and male:female.

The broad features of the program have been in place for many years – but each year changes are made to the format based on new ideas from new (young) school organizers, and by carefully looking at the students feedback from previous schools.

How are students selected?


The selection criteria are the stage of the students (preference given to early stage students) and the reliance of the student research programmes on neutrons.

What are the advantages of taking part in a school supported by NMI3?

Without NMI3 support, the international character of the school would be diminished. In neutron scattering it is very important to foster European and wider collaborations at an early stage, and interaction of students from a variety of backgrounds and neutron sources across Europe is a great opportunity to forge these collaborations, and links. NMI3 support is crucial to this.

Regarding the future, what are the plans for the school?

The next school will be held in 2015, and judging from the feedback we have received from this year’s school, will look very similar to this one.

Oxford School 2013

Students at the 2013 Oxford School

Useful links

NMI3 support