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The Annual Christmas Lectures

The department traditionally holds a public lecture every Christmas and invites local schools to come along and learn from some of our leading academics about the science we do and the issues it affects.

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The 2020 Christmas Lecture: How to build an epidemics simulation


In the most recent Christmas lecture we talked about the construction of a simulation for the spread of epidemics in the population, with the example of the UK. Many of the ingredients rely on a large variety of data, nearly all of them are publicly available. To build our virtual population of about 60 million UK residents, we use data from the last census and the Office for National Statistics, which also provides information about schools, employment and commute patterns. A large variety of data from other sources informs how our model simulates the statistical behaviour of the population: how people socialize, how they spend their free time, how often they shop or go to a restaurant or pub and so on. We will discuss how we infer some of our inputs from census data, and how we validate some of the assumptions that we need to make. The virtual people in the model transmit the virtual disease - Covid-19 - through social contacts, and how we simulate this aspect was shown as well.

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Video gallery

Previous lectures in this series

Year Lecturer Title of Lecture
2019 Dr Chris Saunter The Worm who lived forever?
2018 Prof Charles Adams The Mystery and Mastery of Photons
2017 Professor Martin Ward The James Webb Space Telescope


Prof Ruth Gregory The Decay of the Universe


Prof Tom McLiesh

The Subtle Science of Soft Slimy Stuff!


Dr Pete Edwards

Universe Missing! - The 2014 Durham Physics Xmas Lecture

2013 Dr Del Atkinson Thanks for the memory - From hard rocks to hard disks: How magnetic information changed the world
2012 Prof P Richardson 2012: The year of the Higgs Boson
2011 Prof M Ward The Ultimate Fate of the Universe
2010 Prof B K Tanner Sounds Fantastic
2009 Prof J Girkin Making light work for Doctors
2008 Dr G Love Light: Skies, Eyes and Spies
2007 Prof G Weiglein 'The LHC - Exploring the mysteries of matter, space and time'
2006 Dr M R C Hunt Nanotechnology: the next big thing is small
2005 Dr C Done Extrasolar planets and extraterrestrial life
2004 Dr I G Hughes Cool things to do with lasers
2003 Dr P J Edwards A recipe for the universe
2002 Prof E W N Glover The hunt for the Higgs
2001 Dr R P Cowburn The incredible shrinking world of nanotechnology
2000 Dr C Done Black holes - fact, fiction or fantasy?
1999 Prof R L Davies New eyes on the universe: telescopes for the millennium
1998 Dr P D Hatton Superconductivity: money, science and applications
1997 Prof D R Flower Galactic nebulae
1996 Prof A D Martin Neutrinos
1995 Dr R M Sharples New light from the cosmos - astronomical technology in the 1990's
1994 Dr A P Monkman A practical guide to lasers
1993 Dr T Shanks Einstein's universe
1992 Prof W J Stirling The fundamental particles - the building blocks of matter
1991 Dr C S Frenk The universe: What is the matter?
1990 Prof B K Tanner In record time
1989 Prof A W Wolfendale Where do cosmic rays come from?
1988 Dr C J Maxwell Hunting elementary particles
1987 Dr B K Tanner & Dr N R Berhoeft There is no resisting a semiconductor
1986 Dr T Shanks & Dr J R Lucey Stepping out into the universe
1985 Dr D R Flower Interstellar matter
1984 Dr K E Turver Very energetic gamma ray astronomy
1983 Dr B K Tanner & Dr S R Hoon Magnetic fluids
1982 Dr F D Gault Elementary particle physics: a GUT response
1981 Prof A W Wolfendale The new astronomies
1980 Dr B K Tanner & Dr Dr S R Hoon The physics of music
1979 Dr R Fong Einstein's universe
1978 Dr J M Breare & Dr A D Martin What are we made of?
1977 Dr J V Major & Dr K J Orford Resonance revealed
1976 Dr B K Tanner & Dr W D Corner A magnetic attraction
1975 Dr K J Orford Energy conversion