What we do
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How did your career start?
My interest in science started when I was a young child and became fascinated with astronomy and how the Universe works. I went on to do A‐levels in Physics, Maths, English Literature and General Studies before going onto study for an MPhys (Hons) degree in Astrophysics at Cardiff University. The degree was a great way to combine both physics and astronomy and there were even opportunities to do modules in other departments e.g.Planet Earth (a geology module). Having finished my degree in 2003 I went on to do a PhD at UCL in ‘Positron and Positronium Interactions with Atoms and Molecules’, which was a little different to the star formation PhD I had planned. I finished my thesis in 2007 before coming to work at AWE in 2008.
Tell us about your time at AWE?
I joined AWE on the graduate scheme. The scheme was a great opportunity to meet other new employees from all over the business, and to do training courses, as well as my day job. This lasted two years and was definitely worthwhile. Since I started at AWE I have been in one role as a Plasma Physicist primarily working on designing/modelling targets for inertial confinement fusion (ICF) experiments in laser facilities – including Orion.
Working at AWE has given me the opportunity to present at conferences both in the UK and abroad, as well as to work colleagues, and to publish papers internally. My role has expanded to include updating both internal and external webpages, helping the Head of Profession for Physics and Mathematics to do his role, being a committee member for the Institute of Physics Women in Physics Group and the Institute of Physics Plasma Physics Group, as well as being involved in the newly established Women’s Network at AWE. I have also obtained my chartership with the Institute of Physics and recently became a mentor to help other physicists achieve their potential.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
I love using codes to do modelling of ICF targets and comparing my results with actual experimental results. Also, I enjoy being able to do extra activities on top of my day job, which makes my job even more exciting and rewarding. There is also a lot of reading involved and continuous learning, which is great, as it keeps my brain ticking over.
Why do you think there are so few female in STEM roles?
Unfortunately, I think there is still a lot of stereotyping both consciously and sub‐consciously, so that a lot of girls automatically go for the more traditional female roles. I was lucky that my Dad was interested in astronomy and physics as a hobby, which helped me to love it too.
I definitely think, that schools, especially primary schools and parents need to help break away from the traditional view of STEM as “male subjects” and encourage females to try to get involved in STEM activities. Also, female STEM role models are not in the limelight enough, although that is changing slightly with the CBeebies Stargazing week using a female astronomer as an example, but a lot more still needs to be done.
What advice would you give to women who want to become a scientist/engineer?
Do not let others say that you cannot be a scientist/engineer, as I got told at secondary school that I would never make it as a physicist and yet here I am years later with an MPhys, PhD and physics job! Also, it is never too late to move into STEM, as a lot of Universities take mature students and even offer foundation years if you did not do physics/maths at A‐level.