Choosing to quit just opens other new doors and it does not make you a failure. Even if you can’t see what the other doors are, there is always something else.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am a physicist working in the research and development of industrial ultrasonic transducers. These transducers are used for detecting cracks, defects, and corrosion across many industries such as energy and aerospace. My company specialises in the manufacture of piezoelectric thin film materials to make these transducers. My current research is the application of this thin film to high temperature environments. They key aim of what we do is to improve safety and reduce costs.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
When at school I was relatively good at all my subjects, and so it was very hard to choose what to study, and I was always very jealous of other students who already had a career plan. Initially I chose STEM purely because I was told the career prospects were better. I went to the University of Warwick to study Maths and Physics, I think largely because I liked the challenge. I quickly found that University level Maths was not for me, being too abstract, and I switched to Physics only. In the second year of University I met Professor Rachel Edwards, at the time, lecturing in Hamiltonian Mechanics. I was so inspired by her teaching that I asked if I could do a research summer project with her, with very little idea of what she actually worked on. This was my first introduction to the field of industrial ultrasonics and real laboratory research, and I loved it. I went on to do a masters, and a PhD with the Ultrasonics group. I then took a research post in ultrasound at the University of Glasgow, and finally I found my current research post at a small start-up company called Novosound in Glasgow researching ultrasonic thin films.
HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?
My first serious roadblock was contracting glandular fever just before starting university. That first year I seriously struggled to study, or socialise, with chronic fatigue and depression. I almost dropped out and never came back. I spent the summer seeking medical help and slowly putting myself back together. Dropping the maths component of my studies was key to my overcoming this and was really difficult to do as it felt like admitting defeat, and that I was a failure. I also then joined the University Pole Dance Society and made lifelong friends. Dance also hugely helped my physical and mental health. My second serious roadblock was the post-doctoral research post I first took after my PhD. I struggled with the work, and with a lack of support in the project, and consequently my health declined rapidly. I chose to leave the project, which was a very hard decision as again, I felt like a failure. But, it was absolutely the right decision, and I love my current job, and I am good at my work.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
It is OK to quit. Chosing to quit just opens other new doors and it does not make you a failure. Even if you can’t see what the other doors are, there is always something else.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
I love the cutting-edge research. It is so exciting to be trying to do something no one else has done before. I particularly love making and creating things. Working with my hands to create something new.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
Go see Professor Rachel Edward’s outreach lectures!
Professor Rachel Edwards is a huge inspiration to me. She is a fantastic lecturer and greatly involved in outreach of all kinds, in particular incorporating her love of circus tricks and skills into everything and anything.