I can't believe I won! Thank you everyone for all your questions, conversations and votes - I have loved every minute! Thanks to all the other scientists involved too - our zone has been awesome!
I attended Ridley High School in Blyth, Northumberland from 1998 to 2001 (ages 14-16), and Cramlington Community College from 2001 to 2003 (ages 17-18).
I studied Physics at the University of York and graduated with my MPhys degree in 2007
I have worked all over the place! From selling popcorn at a local cinema as a part-time job when I was a student to sorting child vaccinations for the NHS (being a scientist is my favourite job by far though!)
I am a postgraduate researcher in the Nuclear Physics Group. I also teach undergraduate students.
I currently work at the University of York.
Favourite thing to do in my job: The best thing about science is talking about and playing with science! It doesn’t matter if it’s talking to other scientists about ideas for my work or to you guys and girls at school about anything; communication is the most important factor in science as it is how we all learn…even us scientists!
I look at the reactions that occur inside stars to try and understand why they produce light, and why our Universe looks like it does today.
I look at a very special reaction that happens in what is known as an X-ray burst…where the surface of an unusual type of star called a Neutron star – if you brought one tablespoon of the stuff that makes a neutron star to Earth, it would weigh same as about 30 million 747 jumbo jets!
Here the little neutron star “steals” hydrogen and helium from it’s partner star – when it takes too much, it can cause a gigantic explosion on the surface! (Picture by M. Garlick)
I do my work at research facilities across the world, including like the TRIUMF laboratory in Vancouver, Canada (check out this great video on youtube!) There I use high-tech equipment including a particle accelerator known as a Cyclotron (which you can see in the picture below) to smash atoms together at incredible speeds – just like they smash into each other in the stars!
I also do lots of work with my colleagues by assisting them with their work; I’ve been able to travel to nuclear physics labs all over the world and work with nuclear physicists from many countries.
My Typical Day
Who says I have a typical day? My days involve anything from understanding data and teaching undergraduates, to travelling abroad to help carry out experiments!
My research involves looking at the data from all of the detectors on my experiment and trying to understand what happens in the nuclear reactions we create in the laboratory with our particle accelerator. I make new computer programs that help me look at the millions of particles I detect!
I also travel to other countries to assist with experiments that other nuclear physicists are doing, which sometimes involves working all night and making sure that everything is working properly! Each laboratory has its own special equipment designed to study different things about the nuclei of atoms. I have been able to travel to Canada, Germany, Finland and Japan and see some amazing sights on the way! It’s also great as you get to meet and work with new colleagues, share ideas and make friends from every corner of the globe!
Not all of my work is research based. I assist undergraduate students with their project work using equipment such as a radio telescope to look at things in our galaxy like dark matter, stuf that our eyes can’t see through a normal telescope! I am involved in lots of activities from astronomy nights to tours of the universe in our 3D planetarium, the “cosmodome”, to talk about some of the amazing phenomena in our universe.
Here are a few photos of me from my (not so) typical days!
Talking at a conference in Tokyo about my work in 2010.
Putting together one of the particle detectors in the lab at York.
It’s not all work though – here I am at Mount Fuji in Japan!
What I'd do with the prize money
£500 would go a long way towards bringing Physics alive through interactive performances and demonstration!
I have loads of ideas for use of the money! £500 might not seem like a lot, but it would go a long way to providing props and expenses for things such as the Physics pantomime “Ellie the Electron in the Quantum Circus”. Created by Doctor Yvette Hancock, Ellie the electron is a short pantomime about an Electron who wants to be a star! Although the show is designed to entertain young children, the story actually teaches the ideas in Quantum Physics (which isn’t as complicated as it sounds – its just the way we think the world so small we can’t see with our eyes works!). It would be great to have more money to make the play bigger and better!
The money would also be very usful in funding trips for schools to visit the Cosmodome, our 3D Planetarium, where the wonders of the universe come to life in an interactive show which is exciting for the students…and the teachers too!
I’ve also been given a really good idea by one of you guys to produce a book about stars and how they work, but designed to teach younger children! The book would be a funny and simple, but would also be educational as well! If you have any ideas about what could be added to the book, that would be great!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
超ソニック物理学者! (That’s Japanese for Super Sonic Physicist!)
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Definitely being able to visit Japan. Everything there is super-futuristic (even the toilets) and I loved experiencing everything about the culture; from Sushi to Sonic the Hedgehog! Japan is also one of the world leaders in nuclear physics research, and it was fantastic to work amongst researchers from all over the world there and see what different kinds of research they do with their huge accelerators and cutting edge technology. I hope one day I’ll be able to work and live there!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
All the time! I was never a quiet student and got told to shut up a lot…I bet some of you are the same!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
My favourite band is Iron Maiden (I’m definitely a rocker), but I love all sorts of music – from Pendulum to Pink Floyd.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I once played the video game “Space Invaders” for a competition in front of a few thousand people at the Hammersmith Apollo Theatre in London!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Wish #1 – A time machine: To go and get myself a pet Tyrannosaurus Rex. Wish #2 – An Intergalactic Spaceship: Capable of Light Speed so I could visit the Andromeda Galaxy during my coffee break. Wish #3 – Ultimate Guitar Skills: So I could play the best solo ever while riding on the back of my T-Rex on Mars!
Tell us a joke.
What’s brown and sticky? A stick. Haha!