Wash your hands!
South Hampstead High School (2000-2007),
Chelsea College of Art and Design (2007-2008),
Dept of Physics at Imperial College (2008-2016)
King’s College London (2016)
Dept of Chemistry at Imperial College London (2017-2020)
Dept of Materials at Imperial College London (2020 – onward)
5 A-levels (A-Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry, Physics and Art), Foundation Degree from Chelsea, MSci in Physics, PhD in physics
Imperial College London
A PhD in physics
Imperial College London
I am an excitable scientist with an enthusiasm for equality. By day I am based in the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London, where I create super thin films out of organic electronic materials that emit absorb circularly polarised light. I spend my evenings editing Wikipedia, working to make the internet a better place.
I live in London, close to Hampstead Heath. Before I started working in physics I studied art at Chelsea College of Art & Design. I loved art at school and still do it a bit now – either designing diagrams for my research papers or designing my family’s Christmas card. I also love cooking, running, cycling and swimming. I am very close to my family, all of whom are medical doctors, and spend all of my free time with my mum – she is an academic psychiatrist working in student mental health at UCL, and was my absolute inspiration growing up.
Today I work in the Department of Physics and Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London. My research involves creating organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) from carbon-based semiconductors. The carbon-based semiconductors are polymers (long chains of repeating units) and small molecules, where special carbon-bonding leaves charges that can move about across the structure. This means the materials don’t behave like insulating plastics (which we would expect for carbon based materials) or conducting metals, but halfway between the two. We control their electronic properties with the chemistry, so we can make materials that can absorb or emit light at specific energies.
I’m making colourful inks that can conduct electricity, then printing them on plastic to make flexible solar panels, bendy mobile phones and roll-up TV screens.
Organic – carbon-based materials – are plastics, just like the bags you get from the supermarket, but a little bit more clever. I make conducting inks from the plastics and print them. Using these inks we hope to make flexible electronic devices like bendy TVs and mobile phones. When we push electric currents through these plastics, they emit light: a process known as fluorescence. All of the electrons within the plastics get a little bit excited, jump to a high level and then falling back down to their stable state. When they jump back they emit light. We use clever chemistry to change the colour that these organic materials can fluoresce.
I spend lots of my time shining light (sometimes lasers, sometimes X-Ray beams) to see which direction the molecules inside my materials are facing. I might try to make them all stand in a really straight line, or twist in a helix, or arrange in a fancy pattern. Sometimes my devices will end up in TV screens or mobile phones, sometimes in sensors to detect biological molecules, sometimes in brain implants to detect epilepsy, sometimes to make things like quantum computers.
My Typical Day:
I dissolve some plastics and make some conducting inks, print them into cool patterns and look at the different molecules.
Most days I wake up, cycle to university and meet a scientist from the chemistry department. I work with the scientists there to create the best molecules we can so that the electricity can pass through our devices quickly and easily. We want to make really bright lights for our mobile phones and computer screens, clear colours for our TVs and solar panels which can capture as much of the sun’s light as possible.
The chemists give me some of their *brand new* materials, and I take them to my lab where I dissolve them and make a liquid. Then I fill an ink cartridge with the mixture and use a printer like your one at home to print my flexible circuits. I check the way these molecules are arranged, optimise their arrangement and then test the devices- I see how good the solar panels are at turning light into electricity or how brightly the TV screens can shine. Sometimes we do tests to see what happens when we heat the molecules up, squeeze them or cool them down and check what happens if the devices are left outside all day. At the end of the day I go back to my chemist friend and say what I’ve learnt and what we need to change for the next set of molecules.
When I get home, I turn my laptop on and start to edit Wikipedia. Everyday I write the biographies of women and minority scientists who should be better recognised. I’ve written almost one thousand biographies since the beginning of 2018.
What I'd do with the prize money:
Training new people to edit Wikipedia: writing about women and minority scientists who are all too often overlooked, helping to tackle misinformation and improving the world’s most important source of information.
I spend a lot of time visiting schools and showing them some exciting physics experiments- often ones which the students can do at home!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
In the lab
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My parents (both incredible doctors) and physics teacher at school (Dr. Walgate)
What was your favourite subject at school?
Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths, Art
What did you want to be after you left school?
I keep changing my mind. I love physics and art and cooking
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Pretty much every week
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Christine and the Queens
What's your favourite food?
My dad’s cooking.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I’ve cycled to Paris from London
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I could show the whole world how great physics is, I eventually become a physics professor at my university, Arsenal would win a trophy
Tell us a joke.
A neutron walked into a bar and asked, “How much for a drink?” The bartender replied, “For you, no charge.”