Sunday, 22 March 2009


Had my interview with Selex on Friday afternoon. I'm finding it really hard to tell how it went - it seemed much more like a chat than an interview and I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing! Before my interview, I got to catch up with one of the guys who had given me a tour of the site in January which was nice. He wanted to ask me some questions about the Nuffield Bursary project that I did as they're thinking of providing one for next year. It's always good to hear how the scheme is growing as it did so much for me.

Then I had the interview. It was meant to be a competency-based interview where they could find out whether I can work in a team, whether I'm a good communicator, what my skills are, that kind of thing, but it kind of just turned into a normal conversation. I'm hoping that it's because I was the last person to be interviewed and that they'd just stopped sticking to the script by the time they got to me. Hmmm...

There are 11 people going for 4 places and I should find out by the end of this week so fingers crossed! It's a 12 week placement and the pay is fantastic so I really do hope that it all works out. I've still to hear about Tokyo too though. The suspense is killing me!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Cats + Laser Pens

Using a laser pointer during my Burn presentation reminded me of how funny it is when cats chase the laser dot.

Courtesy of Lolcats and Graphjam

Physics Camp

Well I had an unusual weekend. I went away with 45 students, 18 lecturers and some researchers to the Burn House, near Edzell. This weekend away is designed for us to give conference-style physics presentations to each other, get to know each other better and (although I don't think they plan for this) watch our lecturers get really drunk with us.

The house was amazing - absolutely huge and sat in the middle of acres of beautiful grounds. Only thing is, it's in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception, no internet or general access to civilisation. I'm not exactly a fan of the country, and the air smelt of poo the whole time we were there.

All the same, I had a really good time, even if I did have to walk 4 miles to Edzell to send a text. The talk sessions were mostly really interesting and I think mine went down quite well. My presentation was on neutrinos - looking at the history of their discovery and the experiments that lead to theories of neutrino mass and oscillations, on the way showing that the Standard Model is not a complete model as it doesn't account for the neutrino's mass. I got asked some really interesting questions at the end too which was good.

The evenings were the best bits - I had such a laugh with my friends but have a serious amount of sleep to catch up on now. I hadn't been looking forward to going to the Burn but yesterday I didn't want to come back and have to go to lectures, as I'd had such a good time. This morning was not fun - could hardly keep my eyes open and started a new lab this afternoon. It's titled 'low temperature experiments' and is crap. I get to use liquid helium (which has a temperature of around -269°C) which I thought would be exciting. I was sorely disappointed. I now have so much lab report to write up which I should probably go and do now.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Dear Higgs Boson

From Abstruse Goose. I should really get back to work now and stop Googling "LHC".

CMS by Da Vinci

A fantastic sketch of the Compact Muon Solenoid in the style of Leonardo Da Vinci. I got it from this article. The artist has done more of these, but I can't find any others online. Shame, I would love to see some more.

Monday, 9 March 2009

In other news today...

"Son-Of-A-Bitch Mouse Solves Maze Researchers Spent Months Builiding"

Sometimes I wish that the stories on the Onion were real...

O genki desu ka?

I just made and then devoured a batch of tori kara age. I got the recipe from the Wagamama book (which I blatently stole from my mum...) and they were absolutely delicious. Went very well with rice and pak choi.

Tucking into some good Japanese food has got me super excited about the prospect of working in Tokyo over the summer. Still waiting to hear back from the Saltire Foundation - now I'm nervous!

On the plus side, I have an interview with SELEX now, so fingers crossed for that one.

I wonder what other Japanese food can I make with what's in the fridge?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Summer 09

I have now applied for:

An international student placement at Fermilab, Chicago
A summer student placement at CERN, Geneva
A summer placement in Systems Engineering at Selex Galileo, Edinburgh
An internship with RBS Securities, Tokyo (through the Saltire Foundation)

So far, have only heard back from Fermilab who said no, but recommended that I apply again next year. I'm starting to wonder what on Earth I'll end up doing. I do not want to have to work in a restaurant to make some money again...

Thursday, 5 March 2009

X-Rays and Neutrinos

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy studying physics until I take a step back and look at what I do each day.

Today I took an x-ray of a crystal (on dental x-ray film) to work out what it was. From the image of the diffraction of the x-rays, we worked out that it was a big chunk of table salt. My lab partner didn't let me lick it... Although my friend did check out the x-ray diffraction of a malteaser.

I then came home, made soup, ate soup, filled in an internship application and finished my presentation on neutrino oscillations. Well, that's a bit of a lie as I've almost finished the PowerPoint but haven't actually rehearsed it or learnt it. And I have to give it at 2 o'clock tomorrow. I think I'll just wing it and see how it goes - that's what I tend to end up doing anyway.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I love cats


I'm in two minds about this... I do lead a very weird life though so I'm thinking I'll go with it and see where I end up.

Left the lab on Monday and had a voicemail form someone at the PR agency that's dealing with the Science: [So What?] campaign regarding some media coverage. I've been in touch with them about articles, photos, videos etc for their website but the woman on the phone said that this was slightly different.

I called her back yesterday and she pitched her idea to me. They want to create a new breed of 'celebrities' who are keen scientists to help with their campaign. The idea is to create icons who can inspire young people to want to study science - to try to counteract the celebrity culture where people are idolised for having acheived nothing (except for, say, living in the Big Brother House). They want to celebrate talent in science the same way that we celebrate the nation's talented althletes. They also want to challenge the stereotype that scientists are boring/nerdy/old/wear labcoats and show that modern scientists actually look and act the same as anyone else.

However, they want to kick all this off with a spread in one of the midweek magazines like 'Hello' or 'OK'. It was at this point in our phone conversation where I became a bit sceptical. This was mainly due to the fact that, when I came back from the ISEF in America, I was asked to be one of the 'talented young people' on 'Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack'. They wanted me to play the role of 'the scientist' and I wanted nothing to do with it. I watched the first few episodes and was very glad that I'd turned down the offer. It was awful. And this pitch brough back those feelings.

It does seem, though, that Kindred wants to do the opposite and inspire young people to be famous for acheiving something, not just for the sake of being famous. And I suppose that the weekly magazines are a good way to reach out. Talking about science in these magazines helps to make science appear less elitist as well, which is a good thing.

Anyway, this is just the pitch so, like I said, lets see where this goes.

Monday, 2 March 2009

The Story So Far

Okay, I'm meant to be working so am looking for distractions. I therefore thought it would be a good idea to give a (very brief!) summary of my life so far. I really should have started a blog 2 years ago...

Born in Edinburgh.
Went to school in Edinburgh (I'm a Mary Erskine girl, whether I like it or not).
Wanted to be a fashion designer.
Then wanted to study project design.
Changed my mind again and went with physics.
Did a physics project over the summer holidays at University of Edinburgh (in between fifth and sixth year).
Got paid by Nuffield Foundation to investigate cosmic rays for six weeks.
Exhibited my project at the National CREST Fair (now the Big Bang Fair).
Represented the UK with my project at the Intel ISEF in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ended up with minor planet named after me and an internship with Agilent Technologies.
Went to Budapest for the day with Intel to discuss "women in science".
Went to last year's CREST Fair to say hi.
Spoke at "Science, Innovation and Enterprise" conference in Glasgow, discussing the future of science education in Scotland.
Part of panel with Lord Drayson and PM at "Building the Britain of the Future" expo in Westminster - again talking about science education and start of "Science: [So What?]" campaign.
Now studying physics at University of St Andrews because Oxford said no (which, in retrospect, I'm very glad about).