Elizabeth Pearson

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Favourite Thing: I love to know things. Everything. I love that I’m the first one to know something, that I’m finding it out and then telling other people about it. There’s this thing that is just waiting to be found out and I’m the one finding it. To me that’s a great feeling.



Sir William Perkins’s School:1998-2005, Royal Holloway University: 2005 – 2009


Masters in Physics; Diploma in Speech and Drama; A-levels – Maths, Physics, Chemistry; AS-Levels – Further Maths, Classical Civilisations, Critical Thinking

Work History:

Longacers Garden Centre (floristry assistant), Internship at RHUL (lasers!), Internship at DESY (Berlin, particle detectors for use at places like CERN)

Current Job:

PhD at Cardiff University.

My STFC Facility:

Cardiff University

Me and my work

I look at very very very far away galaxies that are so dusty all we can see are fuzzy blobs.

I’m an astrophysicst looking at the cosmic dust in galaxies that are right on the limit of what we can see.  They are so far away that they just look like fuzzy blobs, but we can tell a lot from those fuzzy blobs.  I’m trying to work out how far away and old they all are so we can track how galaxies grow and age.

To look at them we use a very fancy infrared camera, the Herschel Space Observatory that’s currently floating out on the other side of the moon looking at the universe.

My Typical Day

I try to work out new ways to understand the universe using the infrared

Most of my days are spent in my office looking at all the information that’s being sent back from Herschel and trying to understand what it all means.  To do that takes a lot of answering emails, doing telephone conferences and writing programs to interpret data.  Once I think I know what I’m looking at I spend a few months writing a paper to tell people what I’ve done.  We’ve never looked at this bit of the spectrum before really, so everything’s new and no one really knows how to do it yet.

I have some untypical days as well.  Those tend to involve going to conferences all over the world or taking arduous trips to observatories in terrible parts of the world like Arizona, Hawaii and Australia.

What I'd do with the money

Buy a telescope to help schools set up their own astronomy clubs and activities

For me astronomy and space was what really made science come alive but I never really had the chance to go out and look at them.  I know the same is true for many.  There are many schools that would love to set up some kind of astronomy activity club but buying telescopes and binoculars is not cheap.  I hope to be able to buy a communal telescope that schools can use, with a pack of fun activities that can make learning both fun and informative.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Creative. Cheery. Clumsy.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Currently Show of Hands but that will change by the end of the week no doubt. I like everything!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Spending a 4 months working at a summer camp in the mountains of California. I slept under the stars most nights and went swimming in a lake every morning.

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

Become a best selling author. Travel all over the world and see everywhere I want to. Be able to eat as much cake as I want with no judgement or bad effects.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I always wanted to be an astronomer, but I really wanted to be a world famous author.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

No. Well… not unless you count accidentally collapsing the set during a performance of ‘Bugsy’. I’m somewhat accident prone.

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

Played with a laser powerful enough to explode your eye ball… or gone to Arizona for an observing trip. Tough call.

Tell us a joke.

How does the moon cut his hair? ‘E-clipse it!

Other stuff

Work photos:


This is Herschel.  It’s very shiny.  Literally.  The mirror is polished to as high a level as we can to make sure as much light as possible is reflected back.


The best time to visit:

Herschel does lots of stuff with schools so if you want us to come talk to you about the majesty of our telescope just look Herschel up on the web and we’ll sort something out!