Karen, what made you want to study Physics?
"Science and maths were my favourite subjects at school, and I was always interested in how things work. I considered a few degree subjects, but I decided on physics. I like the fact that it’s mathematical and also links into chemistry in some areas, so you get a bit of everything."
How did this lead onto teaching?
"I graduated with an MPhys from The University of Manchester then stayed there to do my PhD. After my PhD I stayed at Manchester for another year on a postdoctoral research scholarship then moved to the University of Nottingham to work as a postdoctoral researcher for 3 years. I then moved to UCLan to take up a lectureship in physics."
What course do you lecture on?
"I am module leader for two Year 3 modules; Condensed Matter Physics and Nuclear and Particle Physics. I also lecture on the foundation level maths modules and supervise final year BSc Physics projects."
What’s the future of Physics?
"I believe the future of physics is to direct our efforts at real world problems and the biggest challenges facing society. For example, we have a societal need to find greener alternatives for our energy supply and to find ways to capture harmful emissions into the atmosphere. In my area of research, we are working towards new types of solar cells, fuel cells, batteries, CO2 capture materials and other smart materials."
Where has Physics taken you globally?
"Most of my research is carried out at synchrotron facilities. These are big particle accelerators that produce synchrotron radiation which we use in our experiments. As well as the UK facility I’ve been to synchrotrons in France, Italy, Sweden and Denmark. The experiments are usually crammed into one week and we have to work long shifts, so we don’t actually get to see much of our surroundings!"
Tell us something interesting about your studies, research, lecturing. What’s the most memorable thing?
"A few years ago, I was carrying out an experiment at the synchrotron in Trieste in Italy, during a particularly hot week in the summer. I was working a night shift when a massive thunderstorm took out all the power to the synchrotron and half of Trieste! Synchrotron experiments never seem to go to plan but they’re always good fun!"
Research wise, what are we doing at UCLan right now?
"Most of our physics research comes broadly under the area of Condensed Matter Physics. Our physics lecturers are carrying out cutting-edge research into graphene, nanomaterials, ionic liquids, magnetic materials and superconductors."
Where can a Physics degree take you?
"Physics graduates can go into careers such as the nuclear industry or nanotechnology but often graduates choose careers unrelated to physics such as business or finance. Of course we will always need good physics teachers to inspire the next generation of physicists. There’s also career options you might not have thought of, for example training as a medical physicist."
11 November 2019