I joined Diamond Light Source as a PDRA in 2006 from the Department of Earth Sciences in Oxford. At that time the newly build light source represented one of the largest investments into scientific research in the UK for the last three or four decades. The prospect of participating in such a large-scale project and contributing to research at the forefront of science and technology was tantalising. I15, the Extreme Conditions Beamline, was one of the first six experimental stations at the dawn of Diamond, and it was a natural fit for my background in Physics and Earth Sciences. As I arrived, the first challenge was to commission the newly build beamline with X-rays. Now, with the comprehensive upgrade of Diamond to Diamond II, new and exciting challenges lie ahead, and I’m looking forward to continuing contributing and enabling world class science.
What do you do here and how does your experience help?
My role as the Principal Beamline Scientist of I15 is multifaceted. I look after the I15 team of scientists and our research programme which exploits the capabilities of I15. Together we support the user programme and aim to maximise the impact of the beamline by engagement with user groups from across the world. Another aspect of my role is leading the short and long-term development of the beamline and support laboratories, and contributing to the strategic planning of the Crystallography Science Group of which I15 is a part. My background in Physics and Earth Sciences provides a useful knowledge base that, together with my desire to know and learn more, allows me to enjoy my role a lot.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Diamond?
I best like that I am working together with many different people. Their different backgrounds, personalities and expertises make every day interesting. Just as much do like the quite unpredictable nature of my work. Enthusiastic users with interesting projects, instrumental anomalies and sometimes human nature provide variety and excitement.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get involved in your field?
If you are full of enthusiasm and have inexhaustible curiosity and motivation, just do it! Get involved, give a 100% and be flexible. You can always find a suitable role.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve been involved in?
There have been so many interesting projects. Scientifically very exciting and visually amazing have been the studies of rare-gas hydrogen compounds under pressure. Under compression, noble gases (e.g., argon, krypton, xenon) can form unusual compounds with hydrogen. The I15 team and I discovered a new compound in the krypton hydrogen system, Kr(H2)4, by compressing krypton and hydrogen gas in a diamond-anvil cell, a pocket-sized high-pressure apparatus, to pressures above 50,000 bar. Using the I15 beamline we characterised the structural and vibrational properties of this new compound under pressure with single crystal X-ray diffraction and Micro-Raman spectroscopy.
What makes Diamond different from other organisations that you could work for?
I love the multidisciplinary and multicultural environment at Diamond and the Harwell Campus. The location in Oxfordshire is excellent, with the historic city of Oxford and the buzzing capital London nearby and the charming Cotswolds not too far either.
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