Publication of paper by talented student who graduated posthumously is a “fitting tribute”

William Mercer
William Mercer

A scientific paper by an outstanding Lancaster graduate who tragically died in his final year has been published posthumously.

Born in Preston, William Mercer attended Broughton High School and gained 3 A*s at A Level at Runshaw College before studying Natural Sciences at Lancaster University.

He was popular and well liked with many friends and interests including football, scouting and student politics. He had just finished his final exams in 2021 when he contracted Covid and fainted, suffering a fatal brain injury. He graduated posthumously with a first-class degree.

William’s Academic Advisor Professor Aneta Stefanovska said: “William’s death was a tragic loss not only to his family and friends, but also to the scientific community; this article was drawn from his final year dissertation and serves as a fitting tribute to him.”

The paper published in Contemporary Physics was co-authored by William and his supervisor Professor Yuri Pashkin and reviews the phenomenon of superconductivity.

The review article looks at the history of developments in the field of superconductivity and covers major breakthroughs in experiment and theory.

Today superconductors are widely used in healthcare, particle accelerators, ultrasensitive instrumentation and microwave engineering and they are being developed for use in many other areas.

Professor Pashkin said: “It was a real pleasure for me to supervise William in his literature review project as he had the ability to easily grasp new concepts and present them in a simple way, understandable to lay readers. Covering this large research field required reading a lot of publications, and William was able to do this diligently and efficiently. It was truly amazing to see how a third-year student was able to absorb this amount of information and convert it into a popular review.”

While the theory of conventional superconductivity was developed by the late 1950s, the more recent discovery of high temperature superconductors in 1986 presented new puzzles to scientists which are still to be resolved.

Nonetheless, this discovery gave a new momentum to the field and intensified the search for room temperature superconductors which continues to this day and holds the promise of revolutionising our lives.

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