totally addicted to SCIENCE CHAT
Wycombe High School (2001-2008), Oxford University (2009-2013, 2013-2018)
Master's in Physics & Philosophy, PhD in particle physics
Wycombe High School (science technician during gap year), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (website content creation summer project), University of Oxford (teaching undergraduates while doing my PhD), Oxford Physics & Hertford College (current jobs)
Quantum Materials Outreach Officer | STEM Outreach Officer
University of Oxford, Department of Physics
My connections to STFC science and technology:
The research group I work with are often at Diamond Light Source and the ISIS neutron and muon source, so I share the science they work on. I featured the Diamond Light Source in our "Quantum Materials Colouring Book" too!
Favourite thing to do in my job: Making liquid oxygen out of air and sticking it to a magnet
I'm a physicist and science communicator - I love understanding things and finding a fun way to tell people about it. Before this, I did research into dark matter.
I have two part-time jobs, both in Oxford University and both involving bringing science to life, but working for two different groups.
I live near Reading in Berkshire with my boyfriend so I commute on the train every morning. I have a hamster called Kipper who is very cute and loves cheese.
I enjoy photography and making videos, as well as writing and designing. I do quite a lot of live presenting on stage, but I get enormous stage fright and have had to fight hard to learn how to control my nerves. I feel really lucky that my jobs allow me the chance to do all the things I love and be paid for them.
Before my current job, I did a PhD, which is where you learn how to do science research (more on this below, including pics!). As part of this, you have to write a ‘thesis’, which is a long report on your research, and if you do well, you get a qualification that means you can use the title ‘Dr.’ in front of your name. Last September I had my graduation ceremony, and I got to wear multi-coloured robes and a silly hat – it was great!!
I’m a big advocate for diversity in science. I’d love to see more girls and women studying subjects like physics and computer science. I think it’s also super important to recognise that diversity means so much more than this. We can do a lot to support and shout out about scientist who are black or from minority ethnic groups, or who are LGBT, or who don’t fit the stereotype in one way or another. Diverse teams do better work, and it makes everything so much more interesting when different people can bring different experiences to the table. I want to help build a world in which anyone thinks that science is for them, just the way they are.
Finally, I used to sing in lots of choirs, though I was mainly noted for my enthusiasm rather than my talent! It’s taken me to loads of exciting places, including tours to Mexico and France as well as across the USA.
I explore magnetism, crystals, superconductors and more. I used to research dark matter 🌌
I have two part-time jobs. Most of the time I’m at the Department of Physics at Oxford University, where I work with the “Quantum Materials” group as their “outreach officer”. That means I work with the scientists to understand their research and find exciting ways to explain it to different people at different events. I make videos, design stalls for science festivals, draw posters, make games, create worksheets, and do all the organising for different events. The group I work with studies “quantum materials”, which are amazing bits of stuff with very special properties. Lots of the “materials” are crystals. Some of them are special magnets, which can behave in unexpected ways. Others have amazing electrical properties, such as “superconductivity” – a wire made of superconductor is super at conducting – it never gets hot! My job is to find easy but exciting ways to understand these materials.
I’ve explored all sorts of fun ways to investigate and explain the materials. Last year we made a giant art installation where we recreated the structure of “iron selenide”, a superconducting crystal that researchers here work on. We made the crystal model glow, so when you switched off the lights, you could see it all lined up in the right structure!
For my PhD (my first try at scientific research), I worked on a really big experiment called LUX-ZEPLIN, which is going to search for mysterious stuff called ‘dark matter’. I got to do some amazing things for this, including visiting the experiment test centre in California (where they had some really big tools!) and going a mile underground down a working mine in Yorkshire!
I also spent three months working in the Houses of Parliament in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, as the STFC Postgraduate Research Fellow. It was an incredible experience – I learned so much and met so many amazing people.
My Typical Day
Thinking, designing, creating, writing, presenting, editing
I’m a morning person, so I’m up early and on the train for my commute. I’ll get my laptop out and start working on something that isn’t technically “work” – like editing some videos for a set of interviews I’ve been making with women scientists, or designing a poster for an event I’m volunteering with, or maybe doing this! It distracts me from the squashed and noisy train and sets up my enthusiasm for the day. Watching the sunrise over the fields is pretty special too.
Once I get to work, I’ll pick which project to work on – though deadlines might make me choose one thing over another – sometimes things just have to get done. This might be planning the next video for our YouTube series, working out what the topic or experiment should be and finding good ways to explain it or make a demonstration to show it on camera. When I know what should be in it, I’ll write a script and get all the right kit together. Shooting the video might take an afternoon or so – it depends how long or complicated it is, or whether the experiment is tricky to do! Editing might take a while too, again, depending how complicated it is. If something went wrong, e.g. if the sound didn’t record properly, trying to fix mistakes can take a really long time.
We usually have a mid-afternoon tea break, which is a good chance to catch up with everyone in the group. It’s often quite light-hearted chat, but we’ll often talk about what people are working on, or where they are going for their next experiment, or how their last set of data is looking. It’s really useful for me to know these sorts of things so that I can plan what projects I might want to do next – it’s best if I can tie my work into theirs. It’s also just really nice to socialise with everyone – they’re all lovely and really interesting!
I’ll get the train home in the evening and cook some dinner. I really enjoy cooking but try not to be too extravagant on a weeknight! It might be something like some stew, or pasta with vegetables. I’m not very good at planning meals in advance, so it’ll be a combination of whatever I fancy plus whatever we have in the fridge!
After dinner, I might watch some TV or read a book, or maybe do a bit more non-work-work, like organising some voluntary stuff. I usually make time to say hello to my hamster – we both enjoy playing! I try to fit in a bit of yoga before bed, but early starts means it’s time for sleep before too long.
What I'd do with the prize money
Get a livestreaming camera so that you can ask me questions while I do live experiments and interviews
I’d buy a livestreaming camera so that I can livestream experiments and demonstrations and talks and shows, and you can join in – asking me questions as we go. I’d love to share all the amazing things we do with all of you and anyone else who wants to see!
I’d start a series of live videos where I do one experiment a week, and I’d make sure I do these during school time so that school classes can tune in and interact virtually – and maybe even do the experiment with me in real time.
I’d also love to do more interviews with women in science, and with a livestreaming camera, anyone could watch these and send in their questions while we are talking. This way, loads of people could get to meet amazing women in science and ask them all sorts of questions.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
enthusiastic, kind, driven
What's the best thing you've ever done in your career?
I created a live, hour-long, action-packed science show called 'Magnets Fantastic' all about the mysteries of magnetism
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
I've never really had a career plan. I know one day I want to write a book, but otherwise I just want to do what I'm doing well.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I'd be a singer with a group like the Tallis Scholars, who sing beautiful classical music
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Steven Wilson / Porcupine Tree
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
When I was 21, I went "interrailing" - I travelled round Europe on trains for a month with my boyfriend. We saw so many amazing places that I would never have thought to visit, and to be travelling for such a long time was super exciting.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) I wish I didn't get tired or didn't need as much sleep, so I could keep doing the millions of exciting things I always wish I had time for. (2) Lots of money so that I could eat out more, buy really classy dresses, go out to the theatre/cinema/opera and still have plenty left over to save for the future (3) A better memory so that I didn't forget things or people and constantly have to re-learn things
Tell us a joke.
- Do you know any jokes about sodium? - Na.