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Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics

Statement on the Research Activities of the GK Batchelor Laboratory: C.P. Caulfield, Head of DAMTP

The sign to the Centre for Mathematical Sciences was vandalised over the night of 19/20 September.  I condemn this act of vandalism and the associated threats of subsequent “direct action” in the strongest possible terms.  The organisation which took responsibility for this act specifically identified the GK Batchelor Laboratory, (GKBLab) and the Schlumberger Professorship, presently held by Professor Ray Goldstein FRS. Their comments concerning the research in the GKBLab and “sponsorship” by various companies and other organisations are, at best, profoundly misleading, and based on out-of-date (by decades) information.

All the activities conducted in the GKBLab and more broadly in the Department of Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) are completely aligned with the mission of the University: “to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence”. As identified by the founder of DAMTP, George Batchelor, the fluid-dynamical research of applied mathematicians is profoundly enriched by laboratory experimentation, and over 60 years DAMTP has led the way globally in understanding fluid flows and training future researchers through careful experimentation in combination with insightful physical and mathematical modelling.

I highlight just two examples. In training, over the last few decades, the GKBLab has played a central role in first the NERC-supported Summer School on Geophysical and Environmental Fluid Dynamics, and then in the Summer School on the Fluid Dynamics of Sustainability and the Environment (jointly with Ecole Polytechnique). These two-week intensive schools have educated hundreds of early career researchers from all over the world on the key fluid dynamical processes in our changing climate, as well as the strategies by which a sustainable future can be ensured for all.

More recently in research, long-standing expertise in architectural fluid dynamics in the GKLab was rapidly re-purposed to understand aerosol flows. Among many significant insights, this research led directly into the UK Government’s change of guidance to “Stop Covid hanging around” through opening windows to increase ventilation. The researchers in the GKBLab are really making a difference, and it is only through scientific research and education that the challenges we all face can be understood and addressed. The GKBLab is absolutely central to DAMTP’s strategic objectives of advancing understanding of the mathematics of health, life and sustainability, and remains a vitally important part of DAMTP’s unswerving commitment to intellectual freedom in curiosity-driven research, consistently with the guidance from the University’s Committee on Benefactions and External and Legal Affairs.

In closing, it is appropriate also to share statements from Professor Goldstein concerning the activities of his research group, and from Professor Stuart Dalziel (Director of the GKBLab) about the present activities in the GKBLab more broadly.  


C. P. Caulfield

Professor of Environmental and Industrial Fluid Dynamics, HoDAMTP

21st September 2022


Research in the Laboratory of the Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems: Statement from Prof Ray Goldstein FRS

Our research group works exclusively on fundamental research in biological physics. It combines theory and experiment to study problems in evolutionary and developmental biology and ecology using the tools of biology, physics, and mathematics.  These subjects are directly related to problems of human development, health, and disease.   We work on the properties of ciliated tissues to understand how they contribute to the proper functioning of our respiratory system, and we study the primitive photosensor of green algae to understand evolutionary origins of visual systems in higher animals. Based on this work, we now have an emerging strand of research that focuses on the fluid and population dynamics underlying harmful algal blooms in marine environments.  This work is supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Templeton Foundation.  We have never sought, nor would we accept any research support from military or defence establishments and seek only to understand the beauty of the natural world around us. 

Research elsewhere in the GK Batchelor Laboratory: Statement from Prof Stuart Dalziel

Work elsewhere in the laboratory has two main foci: understanding the environment in which we live and tackling problems that either have a substantial benefit for humanity or help solve important man-made issues. The first focus includes work relating to planetary sciences, exploring phenomena such as mixing and waves within the oceans, avalanches, the cryosphere, mantle processes and planetary formation. The second focus includes a significant effort understanding the role of ventilation both in terms of the transmission of airborne disease and energy usage, work relating to carbon sequestration and how to decontaminate toxic substances from materials. There are also threads of curiosity driven research in other areas. For example, understanding nitrogen narcosis, hydraulic jumps in a kitchen sink and water transport in trees. Most of the work across the lab is of a fundamental nature. Some (e.g. that relating to disease transmission) is 'applicable', but none of it relates to the production of oil or weapons. Funding comes entirely from not-for-profit sources in the UK and EU including the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, Leverhulme Trust, research councils and other government agencies.