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What's your professional background and how did you come to work at Diamond?
I read Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, then remained in Cambridge to complete a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics. I was a member of the ATLAS Collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider, searching for Supersymmetry, a favoured theory explaining physics beyond the Standard Model. Following my PhD, I was elected to a Research Fellowship at Pembroke College and continued to search for new physics. I was very fortunate: the successful start-up of the LHC coincided with the start of the second year of my PhD, and I was able to be physically based at CERN for it. My tenure in ATLAS also coincided with the discovery of the Higgs!
Tempted to try something different, I left Cambridge to join the Williams Formula One team in Oxfordshire, joining the Aerodynamics department to develop software for the processing, analysis and visualisation of data, providing data presentation via user interfaces to support wind tunnel and track operations.
After four years at Williams, the opportunity arose to reconnect with science by coming to work at Diamond. I joined the Beamline Controls group as Team Leader of one of the four support teams, a role I’ve carried out for the last four years.
What do you do here and how does your experience help?
I’ve just been appointed to the role of Head of Integrated Software Programme, a newly created role within the Scientific Software, Controls & Computation group. This means that I am now responsible for leading the design, development and implementation of the integrated Diamond-II software programme, in close coordination with beamline scientists, Data Analysis, Data Acquisition and Controls. This programme of work aims to deliver the core software, computing and controls developments needed to enable handling of increased data rates, provide common instrumentation, control, acquisition and readout system, and develop information and post-visit analysis services. This will enable everyone to exploit the science opportunity afforded by the Diamond-II machine upgrade.
I expect, having been a scientist myself, but also then a software engineer, that I will be drawing on all the experience gained in my career to date to deliver the software and computing programme which we need to meet the needs of the Diamond-II user community. I’m very used to working in high pressure environments, where there’s lots to deliver, lots of complexity and the need to work extremely effectively and efficiently in multi-disciplinary teams.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Diamond?
Whilst I very much enjoyed life in the fast lane at Williams, I did miss science. Whilst I don’t get to carry out research myself anymore, working at Diamond brings back that sense of fulfilment, knowing that my contribution is supporting a wide range of research across physics, chemistry and biology.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get involved in your field?
I would recommend making sure that whatever they choose to do, that it is something they were motivated to do and that they enjoyed doing. And, that if there’s something you really want to be a part of, don’t be afraid to try and get involved! I’d never have imagined it possible to be part of the start-up and commissioning of a giant particle physics experiment, and then just a few years later find yourself stood in the pit lane at Silverstone, using very similar skills to make a Formula One car go faster. It’s never too late to learn a new skill, or realise what you really want to do when you grow up …
What is the most interesting project you’ve been involved in?
I expect that will be Diamond-II … There are so many challenges, and it’s far from an everyday opportunity to consider how we’re going to design and deliver software which has the potential to enable so much state-of-the-art science!
What makes Diamond different from other organisations that you could work for?
There’s a huge variety of work, being undertaken by a variety of different people: experts in a variety of different fields, all working together to deliver the word leading science Diamond needs to.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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