2011-2015: University of Southampton.
9.5 GCSEs, 4.5 A-levels, Masters in Physics.
PhD in astrophysics
University of Southampton
Favourite thing to do in my job: Being able to communicate science to people – to me, this is the ultimate test as to whether or not I understand something properly!
I try to look at black holes, and enjoy baking and running!
I live in Southampton – I studied physics and astronomy at University. 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!
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 prize 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 to home-educators and their children at the University of Southampton. The evening was great fun, and I had some very interesting questions from prospective new scientists of all ages!
I think being able to communicate astronomy as a whole would be a great idea for a whole day! 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!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Dedicated, curious, enthusiastic.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Uncovered a hidden black hole.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My Mum and Dad.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
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!
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!