Student profile
Lester Buxton

Lester Buxton

"University, both at postgraduate and undergraduate level, is what you make of it. Surrey is a great university to find lots of different things you’ll enjoy!"

Entry year
2018
Research project

The Role of Noise in Quantum Decoherence in Biological Systems

I chose to study my PhD in quantum biology because of its interdisciplinary nature. Coming from a physics background, it was exciting to work with both theoretical and experimental scientists who were not physicists. The PhD was brought to my attention when my now supervisor, Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, publicised it. Surrey has the world’s first Quantum Biology Doctoral Training Centre (QB-DTC) and there are few other places that offer courses in it, so I chose to come to Surrey.

I am passionate about physics as it describes the fundamental nature of everything. However, we are still trying to expand into what we don’t know or understand. Quantum biology is a good example of this, we have a well-established, verifiable theory of quantum mechanics which tells us how the smallest things work, but as soon as we bring in the complicated world of biology, even in the smallest of cells, then quantum mechanics falls flat. At the QB-DTC we’re working on explaining that. Having been at the University for almost a year (first of three), overall, I have enjoyed my time. I have a good set of colleagues and my supervisors have both been very supportive. PhDs are very flexible and you can work when you want, although this can sometimes lead to overworking.

"I have a good set of colleagues and my supervisors have both been very supportive."

I have weekly supervisor meetings (the regularity varies from supervisor to supervisor and PhD to PhD student) where we discuss the work that I have done that week and what the plan is going forward. This means I work appropriately and at a good pace. They question the work that I have done and guide me on a path that will eventually lead to my own project.

My PhD is very theoretical so it requires a lot of pre-reading and work before I can start my own work. I use the library frequently to find books and papers that I need for this initial research. I have enjoyed working on derivations and I get a feeling of satisfaction when I’ve finished working through a problem.

Working in an interdisciplinary field like quantum biology there is lots of opportunity for collaboration. Our centre has lots of interest and connections from academics from around the world, and with us being quite small we get the opportunity to talk to the academics and discuss ideas.

"Guildford is a nice place with plenty of bars and restaurants, but it is also not too far from London if I want something more."

My proudest moment so far was the outreach talk I did on quantum biology to the public. It took a while to collate all of the information on the many branches of quantum biology, as my project is not specific to a single branch. Once this was done it was enjoyable to present it to a very engaged audience. I’m also preparing a comedy sketch about my research for Bright Club in Guildford.

I play squash, so I spend a lot of my time at Surrey Sports Park, either at the gym or on the courts. The rest of my free time is spent either socialising or relaxing at home. Guildford is a nice place with plenty of bars and restaurants, but it is also not too far from London if I want something more. The postgraduate society, which I am president of, also holds lots of social events throughout the year.

Surrey is very good at encouraging outreach and I enjoy getting involved with that. The Students’ Union is very good at organising lots of events at our Rubix nightclub as well as other events like their Pride festival. University, both at postgraduate and undergraduate level, is what you make of it. Surrey is a great university to find lots of different things you’ll enjoy!

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