Photo:

Bethan Charles

My CV

Education:

University of Bath (2015 – present), Durham University (2009 – 2013), St Peters School Bournemouth (2002 – 2009)

Qualifications:

GCSEs (2007), ALevels (Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Biology – 2009), MPhys Physics (2013), MRes Research (2015)

Work History:

Two consulting firms in London called Accenture (2013 – 2015) and CEB (2012), the Namibian Dolphin Project in Africa (2011).

Current Job:

PhD Student

Employer:

University of Bath

About Me

A materials scientist who loves solar cells, dancing and dolphins!

After leaving school I moved to Durham University to study for a Masters in Physics. At Durham I specialised in solar cells, but I also did a project on dolphin echolocation, and following that I was lucky enough to travel to Africa to work with the Namibian Dolphin Project. I collected data on wild whales and dolphins to help protect them! Although I then decided to take a break from science, working in London as a consultant. But after two years I returned and now live in Bath, where I am working towards my PhD investigating materials for solar cells.

I also love to dance, starting ballet when I was just three years old and competing in national dance competitions (although now I just do dance classes for fun!).

 

My Work

I investigate materials for the solar cells of the future, which can be flexible or invisible!

The Earth receives more energy from the Sun in just one hour than the entire world’s population consumes in one year! That is a lot of potential energy! What if we could capture that sunlight and turn it’s energy into electricity? Well we can using solar cells.

Most people have seen solar panels, but I work on materials for the solar cells of the future. These devices can be made to be thinner than a human hair and flexible! They can also be printed (think solar cell wall paper), they can also be transparent (think solar cell windows).

But the materials that capture the sunlight are not very well understood, and that is where I come in. I use Lasers and X-rays to look deep into the structure of these materials to try and figure out how they work, and in doing so how to make them better for use in solar cells.

My Typical Day

Coffee – liquid nitrogen – computers – lunch – lasers (or x-rays) – coffee – computers – dancing

The great thing about being a scientist is that no two days are the same!

At the moment I am doing a lot of measurements involving lasers. So recently, my day starts quite early with a coffee (otherwise I’m grumpy!) and then I go to the laser lab to set up my experiment. This involves quite a bit of liquid nitrogen and then cooling a sample using liquid helium. I cool my materials down to -270 degrees C, colder than the surface of Neptune! This takes a long time, so while I’m waiting, I go on my computer answering emails and look up work other scientists have done that might help me. After lunch I come back to the lab and turn the laser on. I analyse the reflected laser light which can reveal interesting properties in my material. Then finishing the day with a dance lesson is always great fun.

But sometimes my day involves making materials in a Chemistry lab or using an X-ray machine or being lucky enough to go out to schools and talk about science!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Organised, Adventurous, Busy

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Adele

What's your favourite food?

Lasagne

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Chased wild whales and dolphins in a tiny boat in Africa

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had no idea, but I knew I liked science

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes, I used to argue with the librarians

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics

My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:

The marble run / energy transfer demo in Saiful’s first lecture this year

Tell us a joke.

Where does bad light go? In a prism!

Other stuff

Work photos:

myimage1

Filling up the container with liquid nitrogen. The nitrogen goes into the detector that collects the reflected laser light, the detector needs to be kept cold otherwise it wont work very well.

myimage2

The box on the left houses my sample and allows me to reach -270 degrees C, colder than the surface of Neptune! The laser light is reflected and focused using some of the mirrors and lens you can also see.

myimage4

This is a picture of some of the material that I am investigating. It is taken using a special microscope called a scanning electron microscope and the whole picture is on the same scale as a grain of salt.