I actually went to over ten different schools throughout my childhood, so far too many to list! I was a sixth former at Rainham School for Girls, and did my undergraduate at the University of Bath.
GCSEs, A-levels, Master of Physics
Greggs, B&Q, English Language Centre
Postgraduate researcher (PhD student)
I am part of a large research project called Proteus. In Proteus there are lots of different scientists and experts working together to improve lung care for patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU). We are funded by The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) who, by extension, also fund my PhD. At the end of our project we hope to have a device that can enable clinicians to further explore the lungs for better diagnose infections.
Favourite thing to do in my job: Make weird and wonderful optical fibres
Slightly goofy and curious researcher in Physics at the University of Bath. When I'm not hiding in a dark lab, I also love rollerskating, crafting and gaming.
I am a postgraduate researcher in Physics at the University of Bath. At sixth form, I studied English, Art, Physics and Maths at A-level. At the point of choosing my A-level subjects, I was sure that I wanted to study some kind of English Literature based topic at University… Until I found I really liked Physics! More specifically, I liked being able to describe things with Mathematics.
After sixth form, I did a four year undergraduate course in Physics at the University of Bath. I really enjoyed my time studying Physics with lots of interesting new people! I decided to stay and become a postgraduate, so I could keep learning.
When I’m not hiding in a dark lab, I also love rollerskating, making crafts and gaming.
I make and test optical fibres. Imagine tiny craft projects with hot glass and lasers!
I design, make and test optical fibres. These are thin, long strands of very pure glass, typically about the size of human hair, that guide light across extremely long distances.
I work within a team at the University of Bath to provide the optical fibres needed for the Proteus research project. The fibres for Proteus need to be able to image and sense problems within the lungs, so as well as performing their functions, they need to be able to fit into the small airways of the lungs.
My Typical Day
Optical fibres can take many attempts to get right! If I am successful, I will take it to a dark lab and test how it works using a laser. If it doesn’t work very well, I will ask my colleagues for advice and start the process again.
There are three very different types of day I can have, depending on what type of work I need to do:
- Making optical fibre
- Testing optical fibre
- Modifying optical fibres
If I am making an optical fibre, I will spend all of my day in a clean room. This is a room that is just as it sounds – very clean! This is to stop our glass from getting dirty. Dust, water or dirt in our fibres will mean they will not keep light inside very well, making a lossy fibre. In the morning, I will put on a special suit, shoe protectors and gloves, and I will prepare my structure to make into optical fibre. This is usually made of carefully stacked glass rods that are built into the shape I would like them to be inside the optical fibre. In the afternoon, I will heat this glass structure in a furnace. When the glass is soft, it is stretched to create long and thin optical fibres.
When this process is finished, I need to test the optical fibre to make sure it is working correctly. On these days, I will spend my morning setting up the necessary equipment to do this – it can take time to look for all of the tools that I need, as expensive equipment is often shared!
Once I have the equipment I need, I will launch laser light into the fibre. This can be very fiddly, because the laser light needs to fall on the end of the very thin fibre to get inside. I have to get the most light I can into my fibre in order to test it. I use a detector or a camera to see how well the fibre carries the light.
If I want to modify optical fibres, I will use a “taper rig”. The optical fibre is held and pulled on in opposite directions, whilst a flame is heating it; this stretches the fibre. Lots of cool structures can be made with this method!
What I'd do with the prize money
I would buy special equipment that would allow me to easily show off our fibres to the general public during school visits and science festivals. These “fibre inspection tools” would allow people to take a close-up look of their structure, a bit like how you would use a microscope.
Optical fibres are beautiful and very visually interesting to look at! We really love showing them off, but due to their small size the can be difficult. We have carefully created demonstrations, pre-recorded videos, image galleries, or very rigid models.
While these are all exciting to look at and have a conversation around, my favourite activity that I have done with the public is making a mini spectroscope to take home. Spectroscopes are tools for inspecting the different colours that make up a beam of light, which look very beautiful and are also very scientifically informative. It is important for me that the audience gets to connect with, handle, and build their own science experiments. Spectroscopes are perfect for this, but there is no reason that optical fibres can’t be real hands-on experiments for general audiences too!
However, to make real imaging fibre experiments a public engagement activity, I would need to buy some equipment. I need fibre inspection tools that we use in research, that could be modified specially for imaging fibres. I would buy a fibre inspector and a camera, so that we can show our real fibres in our public engagement activities. This would allow people to see, use and handle the real fibres themselves, rather than just images and demonstrations.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Ambitious glass artisan
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Investigated special optical fibre that can be made smaller with very low loss. It was a really neat idea my supervisor had, and it was really amazing to be able to do the experiments to show how it can work in reality.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Cheesy as it sounds... Richard Feynman. He explains difficult scientific concepts in effortlessly simple and easy ways.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
I originally wanted to be a writer!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes. I often got detention.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A struggling writer
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Travelled around Europe for two months.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Ability to pause time, never get sick, and unlimited free coffee!
Tell us a joke.
Where does bad light end up? In a prism.