by Daniela Bortoletto

Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The university existed in some form already in 1096 but it started developing rapidly in 1167, when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. Oxford has educated many notable alumni including 27 Nobel laureates, 26 British prime ministers and many foreign heads of state.


The University is composed by academic departments, research centres, libraries and museums. In addition, there are also 38 colleges (many dating back to the 13th century), and six permanent halls, which are independent from the university, but also deeply connected to it.

Within the colleges the students are taught by faculty in groups of one to three on a weekly basis, in what is called the tutorial system. The university and college system are beneficial to both faculty and students, providing the advantage of belonging both to a large, internationally renowned institution and to a small, interdisciplinary academic community.

Physics at Oxford did not have an easy path. In the seventeenth century, the department of Experimental Philosophy, as physics was then known as in Oxford, was honoured with the presence of two physicists whose names are remembered to the present day: Robert Boyle and his assistant Robert Hooke. Nonetheless, after that, many of the leaders of the physics department did not have any interest in research. The original Clarendon Laboratory, the first purpose-built physics laboratory in the UK, was mainly a teaching facility.

The turning point in Oxford physics came in 1919 with the appointment of Lindemann as head of the Clarendon Laboratory, who built up the physics department. Currently, the Oxford Physics Department is one of the largest physics departments in the world, employing about 475 people and having an annual turnover of about £33m.

The members of the AMVA4NewPhysics team in Oxford are part of the ATLAS collaboration. Oxford is one of the founding members of the ATLAS experiment and made major contributions to the design, prototyping, construction, and commissioning of the detector, and in particular of the Semiconductor Tracker barrels, which were assembled in the basement of the Denys Wilkinson Building.

The ATLAS group consists of 10 academics, 5 postdocs, 9 graduate students, several engineers and IT support. The group analysis effort focuses on searches for New Physics beyond the Standard Model, understanding the properties of the Higgs boson, and Standard Model precision measurements.

In AMVA4NewPhysics we aim at developing and applying novel statistical learning techniques to Higgs decays to two b-jets (H→bb) and to studies of di-Higgs production in 4 b-jets final states (HH→bbbb).

The author of this article, Daniela Bortoletto, is a professor at Oxford and the coordinator of WP1 in AMVA4NewPhysics. She is also a senior Kurti Fellow in Brasenose College.