Another chat has ended. It was fun! But I need to learn to type even faster! Still answering your questions as fast as I can ;)
Montrose Academy – 1999 to 2005. Edinburgh University – 2005 to 2010 (undergraduate). Edinburgh University – 2010 to present (postgraduate)
I have a degree in mathematical physics. In school I got A grades in Higher Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, and a C in Higher English. I got A grades in Advanced Higher Physics and Chemistry, and a B in Advanced Higher Maths.
I’ve worked in a few bars, on a wildlife reserve looking after endangered animals, and in a bike shop. All just small jobs while I’ve been a student so that I could afford to eat!
I’m a PhD student – I work at CERN doing scientific research all day.
I work at CERN, just outside Geneva, on the ATLAS Experiment. I’m a PhD student, and the main thing I’m doing out here is looking for a particle called the Higgs Boson. The Higgs Boson is named after Professor Peter Higgs who used to work at Edinburgh University. He came up with an idea (a theory) that describes why things have mass, and if his idea is correct then there must be a new particle that no one has ever seen before, so this particle was named after him: the Higgs Boson. At CERN we’re looking for the Higgs Boson, because if we find it then we’ll know that Peter Higgs’ idea must be correct, and then we’ll understand a bit more about how the universe works.
My Typical Day:
My day: Drink coffee. Make computers do whatever I want them to do. Discuss physics problems with friends. Drink more coffee. Try to think of clever ways to find things no one has ever seen before. Discover how the universe works.
Most of my day is spent creating computer programs to help me do my work. We need computers to do the work for us because there is too much data to search through by hand.
I spend some of my time using my computer programs to try to find the Higgs Boson, but I spend most of my time just trying to understand how our machine (the ATLAS Detector) actually works: we’ve built this great big machine, but now we need to know how well it can measure the things we want it to measure.
I also spend a lot of time in meetings, and even more time reading and writing emails to other scientists. The meetings are often pretty boring, but we need to write emails to each other and have meetings so that everyone can share things they’ve learnt with everyone else. One good thing about meetings and emails is that you can ask other scientists questions about the things you don’t understand, and no one minds, even if it’s a really silly question, because we all try to help each other.
I don’t have a lot of free time because I enjoy doing the science that I do and so I spend a lot of time doing it. It’s like a hobby for me, as well as a job. When I do have free time though I like to go cycling in the mountains and enter races (it’s beautiful, and cycling down a mountain at 60mph is a lot of fun!) I also just hang out with friends or talk to my girlfriend on the phone since she lives in Scotland. I also drink more coffee that I probably should…
What I'd do with the prize money:
I’d like to set up a website with regular videos all about physics and the universe. Stuff to capture peoples’ imaginations! The money would go towards the website and a camera to film the videos with.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Ambitious, ardent, happy
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Unfortunately yes. My friend and I came very very close to blowing up a wing of the school building while making things we shouldn’t have been making in Chemistry class.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Find the Higgs Boson, race in the Tour de France, get a job as a university physics lecturer.
Tell us a joke.
There’re two fish in a tank, and one says “How do you drive this thing?”