MGC 2006 Leaver
Scientific research makes you stretch your imagination to the extremes. In my work, I study the very coldest places in the universe, far colder even than the depths of outer space. Instead, these places can only be created in scientific laboratories, where clouds of atoms are cooled in state-of-the-art vacuum chambers. As a theorist, I propose and calculate new ways to make experiments like this reveal more about quantum physics and the fundamental ways in which our world works.
My path to being a theoretical physicist started in the Science and Maths classes at Malvern, and has taken me around the world to study, travel and work. After my time in Malvern,
I attended a Sixth Form College in Italy, where my parents were teaching, before heading to the University of Cambridge to study Natural Sciences. To be honest, I initially felt overwhelmed by the confidence of other students there, but support from friends and professors helped me find my feet. By the end of my degree, I knew that I wanted to learn more, and so I stayed for another three years, doing a research PhD in theoretical physics and captaining the university’s competitive wine-tasting team (yes, that is a real thing!).
Now, almost six years later, I am still enthralled by Quantum Physics and I have my own PhD students, here at the University of Birmingham, where I am a Royal Society University Research Fellow and academic staff member. Looking back, the route to get here has not always been easy, but it has been exhilarating. Some highlights include four years living in the Italian Alps as a scientific researcher, and winning this year’s Maxwell Medal, awarded by the UK Institute of Physics to a young theoretical physicist. Most of all though, it is such a privilege to spend each day trying, in a very small way, to push back the limits of what we know.
What does success look like?
In my view, success comes from a mixture of hard work, smart choices and plenty of luck.
I believe it is about finding a personal path through life that is fulfilling, sustainable and meaningful.
What is your best piece of advice?
Don’t be put off by the stereotypes – people often expect scientists and mathematicians to be white men who act like awkward geniuses, and that is simply wrong. Have confidence in yourself and help us change these outdated and harmful preconceptions.