Dr Siddharth Saxena
Siddharth Saxena - or Montu, as he is commonly known - is a Fellow Commoner in Physics at Jesus College and Chair of the Cambridge Central Asia Forum.
Magnetism has been a subject of fascination since antiquity and provided us with one of the first examples of an invisible force. Through observations of the behaviour of magnets such as lodestone, we have come to grips with the idea of attractive and repulsive forces, and have furthered our understanding of natural phenomena such as gravity.
In more recent times, the study of magnetism has led to even more subtle concepts that have had fruitful applications in other areas, including elementary particle physics, various branches of condensed matter physics and even biology.
Superconductivity is a property of materials at low temperatures when the electrons can travel through the material without encountering resistance. As electrons travel through normal conductors like copper wire (when we turn the power switch on!) they collide with other electrons, particles and defects present in material of the wire.
Such collisions, like most collisions, result in loss of energy. This loss in energy is what that makes up a significant portion of the electricity bill. As opposed to such normal conductors, superconductors allow the electrons to travel through without loss in energy.
Until recently it was believed that magnetic fields and superconductivity are like oil and water and cannot exist together. One of the hallmarks of a superconductor is the expulsion of a magnetic field passing through it.
However, my work shows that an exotic form of superconductivity can in fact coexist with a certain type of magnetism. This phenomenon has important applications, far in the future, for the technology of semiconductors, lasers, switches, circuitry, and developments in magnetic resonance imaging and Earth’s geomagnetism.
My home is Lucknow, India, where I was born in 1971, but my progress through school took me to Britain, France, Germany, and Switzerland. From Lucknow, I went on to New Orleans and enrolled at the Bonnable High School, graduating in 1989 and proceeded to the University of New Orleans, where I studied Physics and History.
From the United States I came to Trinity College, Cambridge, on a Commonwealth Trust Trinity Scholarship to study for a PhD at the Cavendish Laboratory. I then did postdoctoral training at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands and University College, London and a Research Fellowship at Girton College, Cambridge.
I was elected to an Advanced Research Fellowship at the Cavendish Laboratory in June 2001 and a Fellowship and College lectureship in Physics in May 2002. My research is focused on quantum phase transitions relating to physical properties like magnetism and superconductivity.
In addition to physics I am committed to internationalism and the fostering of a deeper understanding of world politics and cultures. I also obtained graduate and undergraduate degrees in History and Anthropology and continue research in these areas.
I am a former President of the University’s International Society, and have given lectures on International Affairs, History and Anthropology.
I am also interested in the history and philosophy of science, and in the study of the history and linguistics of the Middle East and Central and South Asia. I currently chair the Cambridge Central Asia Forum and am Honorary Secretary of British Academy’s Committee for Central and Inner Asia.