EducationMusselburgh Grammar School (2002-2008), University of St Andrews (2008-2012)
QualificationsMasters in Physics (Honours): Theoretical Physics, First Class
Work HistoryUniversity of St Andrews as a tutor, demonstrator and tour guide (2010 – present)
Current JobPhD Research Student (Theoretical Physics)
University of St Andrews & ISIS Neutron Scattering Facility
Favourite thing to do in my job: There’s nothing quite like the moment when you discover something and you realise that you’re the first person in the history of the entire universe to know and understand it!
My Work: I help unravel the secrets of the weirdest forces in nature by thinking about the coldest things in the universe!
My Typical Day: Every day is different! Sometimes I sit and think about stuff, sometimes I teach, sometimes I give talks and go to conferences – every day is exciting and different from the last!
What I'd do with the prize money: I’d use it to make some videos showing how science is done and who it’s done by, with videos of real scientists in their labs and interviews with them explaining what they research and how they do it – a ‘virtual tour’, if you like!
I’d like to do something that can benefit everyone who’s taken part in “I’m a Scientist” and everyone with an interest in learning more about science. I think the fairest way to do this is to create some online materials so that everyone, no matter where they are, can use them.
For some time now I’ve wanted to create a series of videos dealing with questions like “What is science?”, “How is science done?” and “Who are scientists?”. I’d particularly like to use the money to make a series of short videos showing researchers at work, in their labs and offices. I want people at home and in schools to be able to watch the videos and take a step into the lives of real researchers, see what our labs look like, see who we are, how we think and what we’re working on.
Specifically, I’d spend the money on video editing software, any equipment and/or expertise I’d need (though I have produced basic videos before – like this one), and I’d expect the bulk of it would go on travelling to any scientists who would be willing to play host and allow me to film and talk to them. If this went well, there would be scope to try for more funding from other sources and to expand the project, which would be my ideal outcome.
Anyone can be a scientist, and we scientists are just ordinary people. I’d like to share that and show everyone out there that there are no barriers to being a scientist – all you need is the willingness to learn, and that’s enough to propel you into the frontiers of human knowledge. We don’t do science because we’re all super-smart geniuses – we do it because it’s FUN!
[Update 11/06/15: It looks like approximately £100 of the money will go on video-editing software, better microphone(s) for conducting the interviews, a .com or .org domain name and basic web hosting. Until the first few videos are made, I’ll keep another £100 in reserve in case there are other bits and pieces I need to buy that haven’t occurred to me yet. If I can secure more funding from elsewhere, I’ll hire a professional web designer, but otherwise I’ll aim to make a simple website myself and use the remaining money for travel and sundries.]
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, friendly, inquisitive!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I’ve always wanted to know how and why everything worked – science seemed like the best way to answer that question.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not very often!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I’d be a musician – I’m a keen guitarist and I love writing songs. Or maybe a writer – I’m writing a sci-fi novel too!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Any band with a really good guitarist!
What's your favourite food?
These days, anything vegetarian – especially veggie burgers, they’re awesome.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
The first time I travelled to Italy by myself – I couldn’t even speak Italian! I went wandering around beautiful Italian towns with my camera and talking with the locals. It was great!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I wish there were more hours in the day, I wish I didn’t have to sometimes do boring admin work and I wish I could do science forever…basically I want a time machine. (I’m working on it!)
Tell us a joke.
I’m reading a great book on anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.