How are you celebrating Pi day? :D
University of Birmingham (2003), University of London (2007), University of Southampton (2012)
BSc Natural Geosciences, MSc Environmental Diagnosis and Management
Nuclear industry and Dorset County Council Emergency Planning team.
Doctoral researcher in Human Geography
University of Southampton
Favourite thing to do in my job: This is a very difficult question! I love all my scientific activities, especially social maths, programming, data science and population statistics, which help me to create context and equations for why people behave as they do and understand how radiation affects different people. Most of all, I love sharing my research and showing people just how absolutely marvellous science is!
I create models to show where vulnerable people are, which help to improve our understanding of the impacts of both historical and potential nuclear and radiation catastrophes!
I used to work in emergency planning before becoming a PhD researcher, and I used my scientific and social skills to make sure that we had the best possible outcome, when things go wrong. I spent most of my time with police, fire and other emergency services, and I would help to decide and to coordinate the ways that we responded to emergencies. Making sure that you have the right emergency response is a little bit like herding cats, because there are so many different organisations that help to keep us safe from harm!
I prepared for and responded to disasters of all kinds, from flooding to landslips and everything in between! I was also lucky enough to work on the 2012 Olympics risk assessment, which was very interesting. You wouldn’t believe the work that went into it! I think it’s very important to do something that’s good for society and that helps other people, if you have the opportunity.
Now I take my emergency management and science knowledge and I apply it to further our knowledge and understanding of vulnerability to accidents that involve radiation, so I’m interested in the impacts of events like Fukushima and Chernobyl, and seeing what we can learn from them by modelling the populations.
I really hope that my research can help to save lives, and I’m looking forward to your questions about all things radioactive!
My Typical Day
Worlds of data at my fingertips.
I wake up and amble into the office for about 9 am, where I hastily gulp down a coffee or two before getting started on my day’s work.
My work is really interesting and varied, not at all the boring stereotype of being hunched over a computer all day.
I spend some time tweaking my models, changing parameters, trialling new runs, and I collect and analyse exciting new data sources that might tell us more about where vulnerable populations are. I often meet up with other scientists, from other departments and universities, and I also engage with people in the emergency services. We discuss our new ideas and how our work might help each other and the general public.
I go to conferences and seminars, both to see what other academics get up to and to present my own research – It’s really fun and a great way to travel, because if your research is good you might get to take it to places like the USA and Japan!
I’m also on the Athena Swan committee for my department, and we sometimes meet, to ensure that we have good gender equality and that men and women have equal opportunities to be amazing scientists.
I like to Twitter about interesting papers that I read, and I always make time to go for a swim if I can.
There’s never a dull moment!
NB: Incidentally, if you’re an aspiring population modeller or a teacher who wants to try out some of my methods in the classroom, then a good place to start is NetLogo.
It’s fun, free, accessible, open-source and one of the original ways of understanding population dynamics, developed by the Northwestern Institute of Complex Systems Science in the USA. Teachers, I’m happy to provide you with code and tutorials for a zombie invasion model for after our chat session – Just ask!
What I'd do with the prize money
I’d support the Chernobyl Children’s Project (http://www.chernobyl-children.org.uk)
The Chernobyl Children’s Project (CCP) is a wonderful charitable organisation that helps children and young people in Belarus who have been affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. They provide restorative holidays in the UK for children from Belarus, deliver humanitarian aid, purchase medicines for the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Minsk and support the Children’s Hospice Movement.
CPP also set up educational exchange visits for health, social care and education professionals, and much of their work focuses upon improving the educational and social opportunities for children and young people with disabilities in Belarus.
My project would provide some decent, basic scientific equipment and toys for CPP, complete with instruction and guidance in Belorussian and Russian, to give these children the opportunity to spark their enthusiasm in science!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Cheerful, funny and energetic
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I started a project to train people in water monitoring and help them to improve their environment called “Let’s Go H2O!”.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
All my amazing science teachers.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Of course not! I was very good.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I’d be a visual or sonic artist! Looking forward to recording the “sounds of radiation” this summer for an exhibition in the USA.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I went to Iceland and visited the hot springs and volcanoes, it was amazing to see society and hazard interact!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To have brilliant ideas, to do something worthwhile for humanity, oh, and to have an instant “hair-do” and no more bad hair days!
Tell us a joke.
What is a nuclear physicist’s favourite food? Fission chips!