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Blacklaw Primary School 1975-1982; Claremont High School 1982-1987, Stewarton Academy 1988
Strathclyde University, Laser Physics and Optoelectronics, 1988-1992
British Steel research laboratories, IQE semiconductor manufacturer
Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University
researcher in renewable energy
Me and my work
helping people find alternatives to using fossil fuels
A lot of people dismiss solar energy in the UK (it’s too rainy!). I’ve worked on a solar air heater which saves gas / electricity and my prototypes even worked in Port Talbot (one of the rainiest places in the UK) – see the picture of me with lots of tall glass ducts! I also investigate other ways of saving energy and replacing fossil fuels in buildings.
Something which people tend to forget is the amount of energy needed to make buildings! I actually teach students in the Welsh School of Architecture about the energy hidden in materials and construction waste. There are a lot of alternative materials out there which we can use if we think about it.
My Typical Day
typical? look for new opportunities, do some computer modelling, chat to my friends about how we can do new things!
I liftshare with a friend from a neighbouring village into the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University, and normally arrive at 9am. The school has a variety of people working there – including scientists (like me), engineers, environmental managers and psychologists as well as architects.
When I get into the office the first thing is to check my e-mails – maybe a new opportunity has arrived overnight (like a chance to be in “I’m a scientist”!). I deal with people all over Wales, UK, Europe and sometimes further afield, so maybe I’ll find out about a new conference, or an opportunity to work with people!
Just now I’m modelling a new type of solar air heater, so I’m doing a lot of maths on the computer, but later on in the year I’ll have the opportunity to work on the prototype – it’s currently being built in North Wales!
I also get involved in opportunities to tell other people about my work and science in general – just now I’m getting organised to give a presentation and look after a stall at the Big Bang day in Wales!
During the day I’ll make a point of finding different people in the department and chatting to them about our different projects – they’re very helpful (particularly the ones who are more experienced with the computer model I’m using)! We’ve all got different abilities and sometimes I’m able to help with their projects too.
Most days I leave about 5pm, but sometimes (like yesterday) there was an event on in the evening about government policies which affect the development of hydrogen as part of our energy infrastructure – lots of people from universities all over the UK as well as people from Welsh Assembly Government.
What I'd do with the money
buy a video camera to help show people the interesting sides of science!
A lot of people don’t really know what scientists do – they often assume that all scientists permanently wear lab coats and never come out of laboratories! TV makes the situation even worse because scientists in films are always about to blow up the world (either because they want to or because they’ve made a huge mistake!). These sort of ideas put people off science subjects without ever finding out the types of jobs they’ll be missing!
I’m one of the organisers of “Discover!” which is a Saturday club running activities and visits to places like Aberthaw power station and British Airways Maintenance Centre! One of the activities I help out in is helping students to obtain images from beautiful mineral samples like calcite, quartz and even meterorite! Each of the students receives a t-shirt with an image they designed themselves! We work with Professor Richard Weston who developed the technique and is now selling material printed from his own images to Liberty of London! I’ve uploaded the image I had on my t-shirt this year! Other activities include building a prosthetic hand and using facilities in Cardiff which control a telescope in Hawaii!
Unfortunately this club can only take 30 people at a time – I’d like to buy 2 video cameras so that the students who attend the club can make a film about their experiences which will be available on the web for people who can’t come in person!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
curious, interested, friendly
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
someone to do the housework, more space to keep bees and a remote control for the weather!
What did you want to be after you left school?
either an author or a vet
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I once got caught sticking my tongue out at a teacher – not a good day!
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
make a prototype solar heater which worked in South Wales!
Tell us a joke.
how many physicists does it take to change a light bulb? 2 – 1 to hold the bulb and 1 to rotate the universe