Justin Wark's research interests lie in the theory, creation, and diagnosis of matter under extremes of temperature, density and pressure – conditions that are far beyond those found on Earth, and only exist at the centre of the giant planets within our own Solar System and beyond, or towards the centre of stars.
Whilst humans can never physically go to these places, it is possible to recreate similar environments in the laboratory, and to make appropriate measurements of the optical, electrical, and physical properties of such matter.
Along with his research group he uses the largest and most powerful optical and x-ray lasers to perform these experiments. The resulting pressures produced can be many tens of millions of atmospheres, and temperatures of millions of degrees. These "miniature stars and planets" created within the laboratory have short lifetimes – sometimes only a few tens of femtoseconds, and within that brief time, all measurements must be made. Experimental data inform the fundamental theory of these dense, hot systems, and Justin's research group also uses "ab initio" quantum simulations and complex atomic physics packages to model the underlying physics. Certain aspects of the work have direct relevance to the quest for laser-driven fusion energy.
Within his department, Justin is Principal Director of the Oxford Centre for High Energy Density Science (OxCHEDS), and a William Penney Fellow.