Photo:

Daniel Hewson

Favourite Thing: The thing I love most about science is the problem solving. There is nothing more satisfying than coming up with a successful solution to a problem!

My CV

Education:

University of Exeter (2012-present), Queen Mary UoL (2007-2010), Exeter College (2005-2007), Cambridge Regional College (2003-2004), Netherhall Sports Academy (1993-2000).

Qualifications:

I have a Masters Degree in Advanced Materials Engineering, a Bachelors Degree in Dental Materials, I have A levels in Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Sports Science, Business and Econonmics and art history. I have GCSEs.

Work History:

Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education, Darts Farm, University of Exeter print and copy services, Sense (Charity for the sensory impaired), Next, Sainsburys, Tesco, First sport, University of Cambridge holiday playscheme and my first job was a paper round.

Current Job:

I am a PhD researcher at the University of Exeter

Employer:

University of Exeter

Me and my work

My work is all about understanding how colour is produced by natural materials.

The most striking colours produced by nature come from physical structures found in insects like butterflies and beetles. They produce brilliant iridescent colour which can also be seen in things like bubbles and oil spillages. I work with a material called cellulose (the stuff plants are made of) which I form into structures, like those found in nature, to display similar colours.

My Typical Day

My typical day involves using different kinds of microscope that help me understand how my material behaves.

Because I need to know what my material is doing I need to use a variety of different microscopes to be able to see how it is behaving. My starting material is 100 nanometers long which is 70 times smaller than the red blood cells in your body. To see these I need to use a Transmission Electron Microscope which is powerful enough to see layers that are 1 atom thick. I use light microscopes with special filters to understand how my material interacts with light.

What I'd do with the money

I would donate the money to TASTE, a charity set up to bring scientific learning to children in Africa.

Inspired by the work of my supervisors in Africa and the experiences they shared of the difficulties children face accessing practical scientific learning, I will donate the money to the Charity TASTE. This charity found a solution to the schools problem of not being able to afford lab equipment by creating a mobile lab that travels from one school to another. This hands on experience means that children in African countries where the charity operates no longer need to simply make and memorize notes made in class, which is a very traditional way of learning that does little to inspire the children or provide a comprehensive understanding of scientific principles. Instead, they now have the opportunity to learn through their own experimentation which is hoped will improve exam pass rates that for sciences are currently the lowest of all subjects.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Funny, flexible (in a laid back sense) and creative.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

I don’t really have a favourite, but the most moving/inspirational music I have listened to has been either classical or choral (MoTab).

What's your favourite food?

Sinigang baboy (It’s a Filippino dish that I enjoyed many many times while I was on the Island of Luzon).

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Probably a tie between quad biking and coasteering.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Of course, life is a testing ground and the boundaries must be tested.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Art I think, although I do have very fond memories of maths classes.

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

Networking with other scientists has been the highlight, there are many incredible people in the world and meeting just a few has been a real privilege.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Richard Feynman – The great American Physicist. I highly recommend his autobiography ‘Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman’ – it’s great fun!

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

Either an artist or a businessman, I love the idea of creating things that others can enjoy and also the challenge of financial success.

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

Firstly, I would have to rule the universe. Second, I would be able to travel through space and time and third, Waitrose would be the standard for all supermarkets.

Tell us a joke.

What is the last thing that goes through a flies mind when it hits a windscreen? Its bottom.

Other stuff

Work photos: