Sam Vinko

Favourite Thing: Building up an experiment, getting it to work, and learning something new about nature nobody else ever observed before.



SKG high school (1997-2001), University of Rome Tor Vergata (2001-2006), University of Oxford (2007-2010)


BSc Physics, MSc Physics (Condensed Matter), DPhil Physics (Atomic and Laser)

Work History:

Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (associate, 2005-2007), done experiments at the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, LULI Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, DESY in Hamburg, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California

Current Job:

I’m a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford

My STFC Facility:

Me and my work

I use the most powerful X-ray laser on Earth to recreate the type of conditions found inside the sun and at the heart of giant planets, in our solar system and beyond.

My Typical Day

Answer emails, go to a seminar or talk, discuss ongoing research projects and data analysis, try to figure out why the computer code I wrote last week doesn’t seem to work, videoconference with collaborators about our upcoming experiment, dinner and pub.

What I'd do with the money

Use it to help fund school trips to visit our laser labs in Oxford. They’re impressive.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, relaxed, sarcastic.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Top two songs on itunes at the moment seem to be Mastodon’s Naked Burn and Awolnations’ Sail. Go figure…

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Racing on the Nurburgring and jumping out of an aeroplane are the first that come to mind

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

World peace, obviously.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A rich physicist. I’m halfway there.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Oh yes…

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

Recreated interior conditions of a star in a laboratory.

Tell us a joke.

Dean, to the physics department: “Why do I always have to give you guys so much money, for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff. Why couldn’t you be like the math. department – all they need is money for pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department. All they need are pencils and paper.”

Other stuff

Work photos:


The LCLS laser at SLAC in California is where I do most experiments.


This is the setup of a recent experiment we did in California. Took a while to put together!


A look inside the experimental chamber where all the weird physics happens.

The best time to visit:

Anytime really, but especially when dedicated events take place: