Photo:

Peter Boorman

Favourite Thing: Being able to communicate science to people – to me, this is the ultimate test as to whether or not I understand something properly!

My CV

Education:

2011-2015: University of Southampton.

Qualifications:

9.5 GCSEs, 4.5 A-levels, Masters in Physics.

Work History:

Current Job:

PhD in astrophysics

Employer:

University of Southampton

About Me

I try to look at black holes, and enjoy baking and running!

I live with my friend, Andy, in Southampton – we both studied physics and astronomy at University.  Now, Andy is a teacher, and I study super-massive black holes at the centres of distant galaxies outside our own Milky Way.

When I’m not researching, I love to play sport – some of my favourites are going for long runs, playing squash and swimming.  My other favourite hobbies are cooking (and in particular baking – I can’t say what my favourite cake is though, because I don’t think there’s a cake I wouldn’t eat!)  and all things technology.  In particular, I really enjoying cooking and eating vegetarian food, and recently made some veggie pasties!

My Work

Finding hidden monsters throughout the Universe with X-rays.

I study super-massive black holes at the centres of galaxies far outside the Milky Way.  These black holes can be more massive than a billion times our own Sun.  The huge gravitational pull of these systems captures vast amounts of matter, that can’t escape and end up being ‘eaten’.  The stuff falling into the black hole gets very hot and ends up emitting lots of radiation.

Some of these destructive black hole systems are hidden behind thick clouds of gas and dust, which absorb the weaker radiation being emitted.  However, the highest energy X-ray radiation can be able to pierce through these clouds, if they aren’t too thick, and travel across space to be detected by X-ray satellites orbiting around the Earth.

My work then analyses the different X-ray detections from these satellites, to be able to figure out what the hidden black hole really looks like.

My Typical Day

No one day in research is the same – I spend a lot of time coding solutions to different problems I discover!

I typically start my day with a jog around Southampton.  I then head to work, where I spend a lot of time programming to solve problems related to my research, such as being able to determine what different hidden black holes truly ‘look’ like.

After work, I love to cook dinner and every now and then, bake some sort of cake.  My profile picture contains one of my recent cakes – an ‘Anti-gravity sweetie cake’!

What I'd do with the money

Host a science day at the University of Southampton for all local families to attend and learn about the wide areas of astronomy.

I recently helped in giving some mobile planetarium shows at a family science day hosted at a school in Dorchester.  The day was great fun, and packed full of different ‘stations’ designed to teach members of the public about different areas of science.

I thought this would be a great idea, but specifically for the area of astronomy.  There are so many different topics this could include: from astro-biology (all about how life might have originated on Earth and other rocky worlds); to magnetism (interesting areas include aurorae and how they form on different planets); observing with different telescopes and the gravitational properties of the most ‘heavy’, yet tiny objects (including black holes) throughout the Universe.

This could also include planetarium shows of different views of the night sky!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Dedicated, curious, enthusiastic.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

The Beatles.

What's your favourite food?

Sushi.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Taken a helicopter ride around the dormant volcano, ‘Haleakala’, in Maui (Hawaii) – the last eruption was over 600 years ago!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A physicist.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

No!

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Uncovered a hidden black hole.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My Mum and Dad.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A cook.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

To see the Aurora, get an academic job after my PhD and to travel the World.

Tell us a joke.

What cheese is made backwards? Edam!

Other stuff

Work photos: