Daisy Shearer

Physics PhD Candidate
University of Surrey

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Don't let anyone tell you that you don't belong in STEM because of your gender. Keep working hard and you can do it!

What do you do?

I am a researcher in experimental quantum physics, specifically in the subfield of semiconductor spintronics. This means I spend my time trying to find ways to control the electron spin in semiconductor materials using different nanofabrication techniques to create spin-polarizing devices. My PhD research focuses on the semiconductor material indium antimonide and I'm trying to make a structure called a 'quantum point contact' which can deflect electrons of different spin states in different directions within the device. Generating spin-polarized currents is useful for spin injection into quantum technologies. An example of this is initialization of electron spin qubits.

Why did you choose this field?

I chose physics because of a chemistry class I had! We were learning about electron orbitals and how they fill and the concept of 'electron spin' was brought up in this context. I asked my teacher to explain more about this thing called 'spin' and she told me to ask a physics teacher, so I did. From then on I was hooked on quantum physics and I haven't looked back. I was also heavily inspired by the incredible Emmy Noether and her trailblazing work in physics.

During my undergraduate physics degree, I purposefully took a broad range of physics modules to find out what areas I enjoyed the most. Physics is such a broad subject that it can seem a bit intimidating to narrow it down. Time and time again, I found myself more engaged in the modules related to quantum physics, atomic physics, solid-state physics and nanophotonics.

I did a research placement working for a telecommunications company on the research and development side of their semiconductor lasers. This was mostly experimental-based and it was the time when I truly realised that experimental quantum physics was where my passion came out the most, rather than the theoretical and computational side of things.

For my PhD project, it's mostly experimental but I also get to do some computational work too which I find compliments my work in the lab.

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

The fact that I passed my MPhys degree with first-class honours. I never imagined I could even do a physics degree, let alone go on to do a PhD in quantum physics.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love that I get to spend my time finding creative solutions to problems. I look forward to the new challenges that I encounter every day.

Best advice for next generation?

Don't let anyone tell you that you don't belong in STEM because of your gender. Keep working hard and you can do it!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science"

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