Arthur Mellows Village College, The University of Manchester
GCSE’s, A-Levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry, then a MPhys (integrated Bachelors and Masters) degree in Physics with Astrophysics.
Internships in mechanical engineering and in the space sector while I was at university.
Northern Space and Security (NORSS)
As well as being obsessed with all things space, I am a musician, playing flute and saxophone.
When I was at university I was a member of the Wind Orchestra – unfortunately no community orchestras are running at the moment so I have to practice my flute and saxophone at home. I also love to dance, even if that just means putting on some music and having a disco in my kitchen!
I monitor satellites and space debris in orbit around the Earth, helping to make sure that the satellites are kept safe.
As well as there being over 2500 active satellites in orbit around Earth, there are also many thousands or even millions of pieces of debris up there too. This includes parts of the rockets that are used to launch satellites, as well as inactive satellites and pieces of satellites that have broken up. One aspect of my job involves monitoring the satellites and space debris, and analysing potential collisions between them. This is important as we want to prevent collisions where possible as they can damage satellites and create even more pieces of debris. We want to keep the space environment around the Earth safe for satellites, as we use satellites for so many aspects of our everyday lives.
There are also other factors that can be dangerous for satellites. One of these is ‘space weather’. Space weather is the name for the conditions in space near to the Earth, and is influenced by the Sun. The Sun can release big eruptions of particles and energy which can travel towards Earth and make the space environment a very harsh place for satellites. Part of my job is also to monitor space weather forecasts, so we can understand any potential causes of satellites going wrong.
My Typical Day: I start work at around 8:15. The first job is to analyse the data that has come in overnight, and find out what has happened while we were asleep! The rest of the day is made up of coding and analysing any potential events.
My days can be very varied depending on what events are coming up. If there are lots of potential collisions or re-entries of satellites, then I spend the day analysing the events and producing reports if necessary. If there aren’t any events that we are concerned about, then I spend my day doing coding and development work, to produce new tools that we can use to better analyse the events.
What I'd do with the money
I would use the money to help fund further outreach events, including buying some 3D printed models of satellites.
I would like to do many more school visits and hands-on outreach sessions. I would use the money to fund travel to the events, as well as buying some resources to use for the sessions. I would like to get some models of satellites 3D printed so that I can get students involved in hands-on activities on satellite design.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic musical astrophysicist.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
That's a good question. To be honest, I'm not sure!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
When I was at school, I attended a GCSE Science Live event where Professor Jim Al-Khalili did a talk about black holes and wormholes. This was the first time I had ever heard of them and I was fascinated! From that point onwards I started to focus on Astrophysics.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
If you'd asked me aged 5, it was the tooth fairy! By the time I was taking my GCSEs, I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, before realising that physics was what I was most interested in.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No, I was very nerdy and enjoyed studying.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Mechanical Engineer or Chemist
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Too Many Zooz
What's your favourite food?
It's a close call between chocolate and halloumi cheese.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Getting to do university lab work at Jodrell Bank Observatory using the huge telescopes was very cool.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would love to be able to travel to see the Northern Lights. I would also like to watch a space launch in the flesh. I would also wish that I was able to visit and explore other planets whenever I wanted!
Tell us a joke.
What's a physicists favourite food? Fission chips.