Frank Longford

Favourite Thing: Making new theories using Chemical and Physical intuition, and testing them out using computers. Getting the answer you want is also nice.



Newent Community School 2001-08, University of Sussex 2009-13, University of Southampton 2013-


MChem, 1st class

Work History:

I’ve worked in many part-time jobs since I was 14, but the coolest was working in the event catering industry for Delaware North Comapnies, where I used to serve VIPs in the Box section of both Wembely and Emerites stadium.

Current Job:

PhD Student


Institute of Complex Systems Simulation

Me and my work

I am a PhD student at the Institute of Complex Systems Simulation (ICSS) in Southampton, studying the mysteries of water’s surface using supercomputer simulations.

Water is an amazingly important molecule for all life on Earth; the average human is made up of around 65% water by mass. Essential chemical reactions occur in our cells only in the presence of water and its strange thermodynamic properties keep our planet from drying out. Despite being so important, water is also incredibly simple; it only contains three atoms: 2 hydrogens and 1 oxygen (H2O). Therefore the wide range of amazing abilities it possess comes mainly from how every molecule interacts with each other.

This is the general idea behind Complexity Science; how small individual actions add up to a greater whole. You may have heard of the “Butterfly Effect”, where (theoretically) the air disturbance caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in the UK could trigger a sequence of events that leads to a tornado occurring in the USA. In fact we deal with Complexity Science ever day of our lives when we watch the weather forecast on TV. Because weather systems are such complex and chaotic systems, we can only made predictions of what will happen using computer simulations and then report the likelihood of them occurring. For instance, a report may claim that there is a 86% chance of rain tomorrow; this means that 86 out of every 100 computer simulations ran predicted rain for tomorrow.

The beauty of Complexity extends into every realm of science, from ant colonies to the formation of black holes, and is quickly becoming a new and exciting way of thinking about the world we live in.

My Typical Day

Coding, meetings, football and piano.

Most of my day is spent in our research group’s office, where I have a specially built desktop computer for my work. Being part of two different departments and having three supervisors means that I’m never short of meetings or seminars to attend across my university campus. Sometimes I go to the gym in the morning or play football with my colleagues in the afternoon. In the evening I like to relax with my housemates in our lounge, play my guitar or piano, or work on some side projects like building a website or making little games on the computer.

What I'd do with the money

LEGO watt balance for schools

Most of  my research group spent a lot of time playing with LEGO when they were younger and would jump at the chance to play with it again. Obviously they are now all very hard working scientists during the day, researching the mysteries of the microscopic world and it can be hard to find the time to do so. Which is why coming across this article online was a pretty exciting opportunity for me.

I would spend the €500 on buying parts for a LEGO watt balance, which would be able to measure Planck’s constant – the universal constant that is at the heart of all modern physics – which could be assembled and run in a classroom. Usually physical constants can only be measured by amazingly sensitive and expensive instruments and so being able to “play” with one made out of LEGO would allow students to bridge the gap between their world and a scientist’s. It would also bring some joy into a few scientists’ worlds as well….


My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Optimistic, creative, funny.

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What's your favourite food?

Tapas, or basically anything that can be covered in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Cross-country skied across Norway.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I didn’t know at the time and I still don’t know now.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Sometimes, if I got bored in class.

What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Published my first paper. I owe a lot to my first supervisor who I worked under for my Master’s degree. She was an inspiration and encouraged me to be as creative as possible with my work without fearing failure.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Richard Feynman.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A writer.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1) To never have to work in a job that I dont want to do. 2) To be able to work in many places all over the world and 3) to always meet amazing people wherever I go.

Tell us a joke.

And the Lord said unto John “Come forth and thy shall receive eternal life”… But John came fifth, and won a toaster.

Other stuff

Work photos:

This is my computer that I work on in our research group’s office. As you can see, Ive got plenty of screen space! The picture on the right hand screen is of a simulation of thousands of water molecules, which I play about with to come up with new theories and ideas about real life. Even though I write code every day for my project, I had never learnt any computer programming until 2 years ago – which goes to show that you never know where your life could take you!