Nick Kaijaks

Who am I?

Although I've got a PhD in Physics, I build web apps for a living. I'm married to Ros and have two daughters called Jessica and Eleanor. We live in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, a town about 10 miles from Coventry and about 25 miles from Birmingham, in the Midlands of the United Kingdom. I have Latvian heritage and family name Latvian flag but I'm proud to be both British UK flag and European EU flag (even if some of my countrymen are not).

Social media and contact links are all in the footer.

What do I do?

I'm a Senior Software Engineer at the University of Warwick, where I've worked for over 21 years. I work on full-stack web applications, producing elegant, usable services which help people to communicate online.

Since 1996, I have run a spare-time information design consultancy, Pinxit Design, offering music typesetting, graphic design, copywriting and editing for both print and web media.

I also do some freelance photography.


I focus on usability, readability and narrative writing to produce effective online services, managed learning environments, and marketing communications. With an unusual skill-mix of technical savvy, design creativity and understanding of people and business needs, I can envision, conceptualise and implement in equal measure.

I'm a PRINCE2® Registered Practitioner, ITIL® Foundation certified, GDPR Foundation certified, and a Chartered Scientist.


Geek Mode On: These days, I'm mostly working in Scala/Play, node.js, and React/Redux. I'm currently delving into Openshift/kubernetes. For data, I use Oracle, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB.

Before that, I had many years using Java, ColdFusion, Railo, Firebird/Interbase, Delphi, Fortran, BBC and Sinclair BASIC.

My platform of choice for work and play is macOS, but I regularly use both linux and Windows 10. I use Raspberry Pi for various projects at home. I was a long-time user of RISC OS, and I still occasionally run it on one of my Pis.

The rest...

I've a Level 3 C&G Certificate in Photography, and passion for typography. I'm a member of Leamington & Warwick Musical Society, performing tenor roles (G2)Bb2-C5(E6) after a long gap away from singing. I love to watch F1 and pro cycling, nostalgically play Elite Dangerous and do a bit of flight simulation in X-Plane. I don't make much time for them, but I play a bit on Nintendo Switch and XBOX One. I'm a former member of the University of Warwick Chamber Choir and ex-President of their G&S Society. I was an author on computer-based design and publishing. For some years I was a regular contributing author for Acorn Publisher magazine (ISSN 1356-1537), also featuring in Foundation Risc User CD magazine.

I've worked as design studio manager, in-house information systems consultant, web manager, and application developer. I've been responsible for budget, team, and end-to-end cross-media marketing. I've almost 25 years experience of graphic and information design for print and web as freelancer and employee.

Once a Physicist...

I used to be a physicist,
but now I'm barely current.

And that's why you'll find me online in most services, under the handle of nanoamp.

I've a PhD in Physics, from the University of Warwick. My thesis, submitted in 2000, was on ion scattering spectroscopy of III-V semiconductor surfaces. These kinds of semiconductors are used in optoelectronics, like the lasers in Blu-ray players, infrared detectors, and solar cells. All this clever tech relies on carefully manufactured crystal structures, like building layers of Lego on a nano-scale. For my doctorate, I explored how atoms arrange themselves in the top few layers of atoms on crystals of these semiconductors.

Semiconductor surfaces 101

Deep inside a crystal (in the bulk), each atom is completely surrounded by other atoms. Like someone squashed in the middle of a festival crowd, each atom experiences similar forces acting from all sides. Because every atom experiences similar forces, they all behave the same way, and that's why they tend to line up to form a nearly perfect regular crystal structure, like the ball-and-stick models you probably saw in science class.

However, atoms at the surface behave differently from those deep within a crystal. At the surface, the atoms don't have forces acting from above. Without the balancing forces from atoms above them, the surface atoms naturally tend to re-organize themselves or reconstruct. They tend to lie in regular patterns on top of the surface. Imagine crowd-surfers at our festival, who all stretch out, linking hands. Understanding these reconstructions is important for nanotechnology. Controlling atomic structure is how you build on a tiny scale.

It can be hard to see individual atoms without interfering with their position. In my PhD, I used techniques which only gave an indirect picture of the surface's structure. I had to infer the structure — like trying to tell what someone looks like if you can only see their shadow. I created computer models of what I thought the surface structure might be, ran some simulations, and compared to the real experiment to see whether my models were a good fit.

I used techniques which are sensitive only to the top few atomic layers of crystals, such as LEED and AES. These techniques require an ultra-high vacuum (UHV) of around one millionth of a millionth of an atmosphere (give or take) to keep the surfaces free from contamination, and to avoid pesky air molecules getting in the way of measurements.

However, most of my work was performed using two separate UHV systems to perform ion-scattering spectroscopy (ISS). One was the low energy CAICISS system (pronounced kye-siss), of the Surface Physics group in the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick. The other was the medium energy MEIS facility, formerly at Daresbury Laboratory and now sited at the University of Huddersfield. My work was funded by a studentship from the EPSRC.

The materials were prepared in vacuo using atomic hydrogen cleaning (AHC) at different temperatures to create clean, reconstructed surfaces. Using ISS, I identified conditions required to create a number of specific reconstructions using AHC. I identified some novel reconstructions, and proposed some structures that might cause them.

The result

I was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Physics, of the University of Warwick, on 12 January 2001. My doctoral thesis is available for download in PDF format (screen-resolution, 3.42M). If you read it, please let me know! Since then, I have gained the professional qualification of Chartered Scientist, and membership of the Institute of Physics. So, I am formally Dr Nick Kaijaks, CSci MInstP. Yay me!

The archive

This is the eighth generation of my website since I first created a public_html directory, back in 1993/4. This section holds some... old things.

I used to blog fairly regularly. There might be something of interest to someone there.

For nostalgia's sake, here's a link to the original Cap'n Fishy photo of me that appeared on that first site. To put things in perspective, this was a 256 colour GIF scanned with a three-pass hand scanner, in the days before JPEGs existed(!), when Mosaic was hot, and when most people thought the 'net was something you caught fish in... indeed, those were the days of Spatula City.

VEGASmagic is a program for converting files produced by the VEGAS simulation code for medium energy ion scattering spectroscopy (MEIS) for visualisation. It was written for 32-bit Windows (95/98/ME/NT/2000) and developed as part of my doctoral work.

It extracts atomic position information from VEGAS input, output and crystal files, and writes new crystal files. It can also read and write Tripos' Alchemy and Brookhaven Data Bank format (PDB) files. The latter ability is particularly useful as it enables VEGAS models to be viewed in macromolecular visualization software, such as RasMol. Version 1.21a, (26/Mar/00)

RISC OS stuff

For the record (and anyone really old-fashioned), here are some RISC OS files that still deserve a home.

!IncSave applet
Ovation Pro applet providing a button macro for incremental saving of documents, with distinct filenames. Version 1.00 (01/Mar/01)
!StylePal applet
Ovation Pro applet adding line scope highlighting, state saving, button macro and RISC OS 4-compatible ticks. Version 1.08 (20/Dec/00)
!Marks applet
SHAREWARE Ovation Pro applet to enable document-specific control and saving of printers marks. Version 1.03a (20/Dec/00)
!Expert applet
SHAREWARE Ovation Pro applet to enable use of old-style figures in expert character sets. Version 1.03a (20/Dec/00)
Replacement !Imposit applet
Ovation Pro applet with amended Tile and Booklet scripts, to correct printers marks/bleed bug and to make half-section printing a menu option. Version 1.03 (21/Nov/99)
Replacement Imposition library file
Ovation Pro file to enable creep for pamphlet printing. Version 1.01 (21/Mar/99)
!FontEd 0.32
Application for font-editing, © Acorn Computers plc, patched for StrongARM compatibility (not by me - I just found it hard to locate elsewhere). It is freely distributable.
!Patterns 1.00
Application for producing Drawfile patterns, © Michael Windsor (1996), referred to in my article in Acorn Publisher, Volume 6 Issue 6.
Credits: physics background © CC BY-SA 2.0 theilr