City of Bristol College (2001-2003), Warwick University (2003-2007), University of Cambridge (2007-2011)
MPhys and PhD in Physics
McDonalds (yup), University of Warwick, Institute Laue Langevin (in Grenoble, France), Cavensidh Laboratory (university of Cambridge), ISIS neutron source
Postdoctoral researcher at the ISIS neutron source
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Favourite thing to do in my job: Discover things that nobody else in the world knows, and make cool things.
I use a variety of particle accelerators to look at thin magnets and superconductors
The particle accelerators I use produce neutrons or x-rays ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spallation_Neutron_Source for details on how to make neutrons or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchrotron for to see how x-rays are made). They are big (very) expensive machines, so there are only a few in the world and the experiments I do have to be carefully planned to make the most of them. An experiment will normall last between 3 and 6 days, running 24 hours a day so I work with other people in a team to use all of the time.
We call them large scale facilities, and you can see why:
Diamond x-ray source
ISIS neutron source (there is a particle accelerator hidden under the grass)
Inside the Diamond building
Alot of work goes into preparing for the experiment and even more goes into looking at the data we have taken afterwards. So for an experiment which has taken maybe 5 days I will have worked for several weeks on it before we even start and usually need several months after to work out what the results mean!
One of the best bits is that because I am using radiation which could be dangerous if I was exposed to it, we have big red buttons to make it stop:
My Typical Day
Anything from planning the next experiment, running my experiment at a large scale facility or looking at the data from an experiment I have finished
What I'd do with the prize money
Use it in a local school to help make sure that they can do more practicals
Science isn’t about learning things in books, it is about real world things and unless science lessons have practicals then it is hard to realise how important it can be for normal life. Science practicals can be expensive to run for a whole class, and so schools can cut down on them to save money. I want to help make science more fun and relate to the real world more
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
scientist, visionary, fool
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Made a machine which was sensitive enough to show the waves of heat coming off my hand
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I always wanted to know how things worked and why, science was the best way to find out
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only a little bit
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A paragliding instructor
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Tell us a joke.
Einstein, Newton and Pascal are playing a game of hide and seek. It is Einstein’s turn to seek so he starts counting and the other two run off. When Einstein opens his eyes he sees Newton right in front of him standing in the middle of a square which has been drawn on the ground. Einstein says “Newton, what are you doing? I have found you!”. Newton replies “Ahh, but no! You have found one Newton per meter square. You have found Pascal!”