Monday, 10 November 2014

Overdue Update!

It's been quite some time since I updated this blog but this is a major sign that the Ph.D is being productive (a.k.a. oppressive!).

Firstly I need to give a shout-out to ScienceGrrl who continue to do amazing things, growing in numbers and getting up to all sorts around the UK! If you're a young lady interested in science, maths, the internet, computers, games, stars, technology...head over to their website to engage with real life professionals/enthusiasts. And if you're already in the industry it's also a great support network too. And if you're a cool awesome dude who wants to understand the role of women in science then you're also totally welcome.

I've been working with ScienceGrrl for a music video (the song will be used on an episode of Orphan Black) by Thomas Dolby (performed by his band the Violet Transmissions):

A bunch of us ScienceGrrls show up in this music video, doing what we do best; talk about our work and what it's like to be a scientist. Obviously you can't hear us talk in the music video which is why our little segments are being released one by one on the ScienceGrrl website.

Here's mine:


Friday, 26 October 2012

The Quantum Workshop

The Quantum Workshop is my secondary science-love-project which I run with Dr. James Millen, or 'Jams' as he is more affectionately known as (probably only by me).

It currently consists of a perspex box that houses a 2W green (532nm) laser which is levitating dust and ash particles. What makes this super awesome is that you can visibly see the particles levitating.

Since March 2012 we've been to science festivals all over the UK including the Oxfordshire, Cheltenham and BA flavoured ones. We've also done talks in some unique locations such as for the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, Spitalfields Market and The Lamb Pub [featured as the hot event in The New Statesman].

For more updates head to the official website:

Friday, 1 June 2012

My Screenplay...

I'm going on a long journey with this and I'd like you all to hop aboard.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Didn't win Famelab UK...

I had the honour of being one of 10 finalists at Famelab UK, held in the Royal Institution. It was amazing, but daunting...I actually got to speak in the same lecture theatre as Faraday. And I didn't crap myself. Pretty good going. 

Anyway, here is a photo of me talking, excuse camera phone quality. At least it's not instagrammed. 
I didn't win. But the winner, Andrew Steele did, and he was excellent. He deserved to go on to represent the UK in the Famelab International finals at Cheltenham Science Festival! Me and TheQuantumWorkshop will be there too btw if anyone wants to see our stand as well. 

So support Andrew - he's @statto on Twitter and his website is here

Anyway, for those who want to know what I actually said for my 3min is a YouTube recording that I managed to eek out afterwards. I look TIRED. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

Famelab Finalist

I entered the video heat of FameLab 2011/12 at the end of last year and I WON! 

The concept is: 3 mins to explain a complex scientific concept. No powerpoint!

The other entries were super so I was very shocked and surprised to be a finalist. Famelab is a great event aimed at finding the next generation of science communicators, with prizes along the way. It's international as well so check out entries from all over the world. 

The UK Final will be held at the Royal Institution in March so I have some time to think of a new subject...and obviously some props!

My video is here:
 Essentially I'm explaining Young's Double Slit experiment. It's the greatest and bestest quantum physics demonstration we have. And you can derive nearly all of the theories of quantum mechanics from it. Although I don't think Young expected me to explain it using Justin Bieber though. 

To find out more about FameLab in the UK go to their website here

My Ignite Talk

I did a talk based on my blog post 'Stop asking for a lightsaber' at a brilliant event called Ignite which is TED based in nature but with added rules. 5 mins, 20 slides timed at 15s each...POWERPOINT 2003. It's a lot of nervous fun and the audience are always supportive...even when you try and include poo jokes.

For more information on Ignite Bristol go to their website here

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Graphene Dream

Graphene has experienced a rise to fame faster than the lolcat takeover of the internet. Last year two researchers from the University of Manchester; Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov received the Nobel Prize in Physics for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene. The ‘upzipped carbon nanotube’ became a hot topic, producing over 3000 journal articles and slowly starting a new science band wagon rolling.  This was well and truly jumped upon by the UK government early this week with an announcement that they would pledge £50million towards developing spin-off technologies from the material.

This amount of funding will drive graphene development to new levels of omnipresence, with rumours that it will supersede our dependence on silicon; the other superstar Mousketeer of material science.  So how good is graphene and what exactly can we use it for?

Graphene is essentially a thin slither of graphite. Graphite is naturally occurring, known as the Class 1 grade of coal, and consists of carbon atoms. P.R. Wallace first theorised the existence of graphene in 1947 when he was studying the band structure of graphite. The graphene sheet is 1 atom thick and was not isolated and studied until the 2000’s, a prevalent trend in experimental research where with each decade you go a little bit more quantum.  This 2D sheet has broken many records by being the strongest as well as most thermally and electrically conductive material measured. These properties are due to an extremely high current density, meaning it can carry a large amount of electricity throughout its volume. Graphene also has the longest mean free path of any material, which is similar to comparing the traffic in Central London to the middle of the Sahara in terms of electrons being able to travel through a material undisturbed. This leads to low resistance and more conductivity. Some other properties which have dubbed graphene as the most useful thing since plastic are its transparency and elasticity.

The extreme properties of graphene have made it a material of interest in industry. There has been research conducted by IBM to make a touchscreen out of graphene, possibly paving the way for flexible screens, roll-up mobiles and batteries that feel like rubber. On the flip side, the strength of graphene will make it lucrative for composite fabrication and tyre strengthening. It has been claimed that a hammock sized sheet which would weigh less than 30 grains of salt would carry the averaged sized cat, a measurement standard which certainly impressed the cat lovers amongst us.

Cat hammock patents aside, there are some major hurdles that need addressing before we go graphene mad. The material has no band gap which means there isn’t a space between the valence band where electrons sit firmly within the structure, and the conduction band, where electrons move into and  gain some freedom to conduct electricity. This means graphene is constantly ‘on’ and conductive, a feature that will hold back electronic component development.

The main barrier will be large scale manufacture of graphene. The Nobel prize winners used a ‘mechanical exfoliation’ method which is basically using sellotape to tear flakes off a lump of graphite. The sellotape was then dissolved in acetone to leave a residue of graphene flakes onto a silicon wafer. It’s then pot luck if you find a nice patch where a single sheet has formed. Chemical vapour deposition growth and growth from solid carbon in a furnace are techniques which could change this fabrication process, but exactly how much change will this leave the £50million fund?

There is a history of ‘fad’ scientific developments which undergo a slow burn lifecycle despite early excitement. Does anyone remember carbon nanotubes? And how many of us can afford to have solar cells on our rooftops? Seen any nano-bots in your cornflakes recently? These are all research topics that genuinely will bring about great changes to the way we live. Graphene can now be added onto the same list. But the LASER is one of the few examples of something we have incorporated into our everyday lives, and that took a good 40 years. So whenever you hear of reports about the next big thing in science, please add a mental question mark to the end of it. And then wait and see.