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Kathryn Yates

PhD student, Imperial College London

Just because people around you are different it doesn’t mean you don’t belong there if you want to be involved.

What do you do?

I’m a researcher as part of the Centre for Nuclear Engineering at Imperial College London. I look at how radiation damage affects metals on an atomic level, and what this means for the materials mechanical and corrosion properties. In the UK we have ageing radioactive materials left over from our early nuclear programmes and we want to understand how to look after them properly.

Why did you choose this field?

After studying chemistry for my undergraduate degree I went to work at Sellafield which is where I learnt more about the nuclear industry. I think nuclear power is vital for future energy generation as it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases and it can produce electricity 24/7. I wanted to gain a further understanding of the technical side of it which is why I chose to do a PhD.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

All of them! It was scary going into an unknown, especially as I am the first person in my family to go to university and the only one to do a PhD. Just because people around you are different it doesn’t mean you don’t belong there if you want to be involved.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I’ve always enjoyed science and understanding how things work since I was in school. Working in STEM gives me the opportunity to learn about a fascinating topic in detail and add to our understanding of it. The best part about working in STEM is the people. I’ve worked alongside people from all over the world who are all passionate about science and we can help each other learn.

Best advice for the next generation

Don’t be put off if you feel like you lack confidence. Being interested in a topic and working hard is what matters most!

Role model 

Lise Meitner who co-discovered nuclear fission in 1939. She is described as a physicist who never lost her humanity.