Emma Carter

still working on the GA (but getting out to enjoy the sun quite a lot too)

Favourite Thing: Helping a student or colleague understand something better



St. Hildas C. of E. High School (1985-1990); Liverpool Blue Coat School (1990-1992)


1992-1996, University of Birmingham, MEng&Man degree (Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing and Management) – back again 2002-2006 for a PhD

Work History:

Churchfields Components (diesel tubes), Lloyds (gears), Universal Steel Tubes (steel tubes!!)


University of Birmingham in the Mechanical Engineering Department

Current Job:

Research Fellow

Me and my work

I am an engineer and I do research into improving micro-engineering systems. Before that I was investigating how people are injured by cars and how the cars can be designed to be safer for pedestrians.

Part of my work is about trying to design and make a device that uses the Casimir Force myimage1. (This is a quantum effect that is only really noticable on the micro-scale but causes a strong attraction between two parallel plates). I am working along side Physicists to design the device myimage2 so that the Casimir Force causes part of it to move without being pushed. I am also writing a computer prgramme that will help optimise the design of a micro-artificial nose myimage3. This is a device that can detect certain gases and has lots of different applications including illness diagnosis. I am trying to help make it smaller and cheaper but also detect more smells. I also did some work on making some periodic gold structures that were so small I created an artificial material (these are called ‘metamaterials’)myimage4

My Typical Day

Cycle in, work on the computer, go swimming, help some students and make stuff in the clean room.

I either cycle to work or drive my Smart Roadster depending on the weather. A lot of the work I do is on the computer – things like designing the masks I use to make the devices, writing computer code, developing a model to see what the device should do when I test it, and then analysing results and writing about them.

I sometimes go swimming at lunchtime and then have lunch in one of the cafes on campus either with a friend or on my own reading the paper.During term time I may have students popping in to discuss a project they are working on.  If I am actually making something I need to put a special suit on and go into our clean room to use the equipment in there.

What I'd do with the money

Make a series of short films explaining micro-engineering, nanotechnology and other science stuff in a fun way.

I’ve got a digital hard drive camera, a very robust flash drive ‘action cam’ that I can wear on my helmet when I go skiing cycling etc. and some free editing software. What I’d like to do is use those and also rent a professional camera for a few days (about £80 per day) to make some short films (3 – 5min) explaining some science and engineering concepts like friction, pressure, van der waals forces, gravity and Newtons laws but using some familar activities like skiing, skate-boarding, scuba diving and windsurfing etc. and also musical instruments (these are great for explaining conspetc such as sound waves, frequency and harmonics). A lot of these things aren’t difficult to understand but a lot of people think they are because they haven’t been explained to them in a way they can relate to. So, I’d make these films (I’ve had a day of vodcasting training with a TV producer) and buy some good editing software (about £200) to finish them off, then put them on U-tube, on the Noisemake website that I have a profile on and also look at putting them on I-Tunes-U.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Inquisitive, sporty, friendly

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Muse and Katy Melua

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Kayaking down a waterfall in New Zealand

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

To have children, play the drums really well and get some decent biceps

What did you want to be after you left school?

An engineer or a TV presenter or a ski instructor – or all 3

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes – for holding hands with a boy!

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

Presenting my work on vehicle shape optimisation to a hundred computer scientists in Washington DC

Tell us a joke.

A jump lead walks into a bar and asks for a drink. The bartender says ‘OK, but don’t start anything’