What is your professional background and how did you come to work at Diamond?
In 2000 I obtained my PhD in Condensed Matter Physics (Spin polarised transport) from the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau (Paris). This was followed by a postdoctoral role at the UK’s Daresbury Laboratory, where I was responsible for developing a very sophisticated detector to measure the spin of photoemitted electrons. Later I worked at Artemis in the Central Laser Facility (CLF) part of the UK Research and Innovation’s Science and Technology Research Council (UKRI-STFC), where we measured electrons dynamics after excitation by ultrafast lasers. I joined Diamond in 2018 in the role of Principal Beamline Scientist.
What do you do and how does your experience help?
At Diamond I am responsible for the I05-ARPES beamline which is dedicated to the study of the electronic structures of novel materials and builds on my past experience. Our primary technique is Angle-Resolved PhotoEmission Spectroscopy (ARPES). I lead a talented team doing fundamental research as well as supporting beamline users. It is important that we maintain and develop the beamline to the highest level. A typical day is a balance between time on experiments, scientific research and administrative work which require high concentration levels.
We study the electronic structure of quantum materials with potential application for the electronics of tomorrow – more powerful and faster electronics for device miniaturisation used in mobile phones, computers, and other devices. This involves looking in new materials with exotic properties to understand their microscopic physics with a view of discovering new phenomena. They include two dimensional materials which are made of few atomic layers and offer serious potential to make very compact devices.
I enjoy the discovery aspect of this work. Seeing the way electrons behave in materials can be full of surprises. I enjoy making sense of what we see when we do our experiments. This is how we grow science knowledge and innovation.
What is the most interesting project you’ve been involved in?
Aside from the science, chairing the Universal Accessibility Network (UAN) at Diamond is profoundly interesting. Diamond’s aim is to create a supportive environment which embraces diversity and inclusiveness. Network members hail from various groups from Diamond and we meet as a committee every six weeks to organise awareness events. These include an Inclusion Week in September and International Day of Disability. It is part of Diamond’s Equality and Diversity Initiative (EDI) to create a culture of respect and acceptance.
We collate information on subjects like disability/impairment support and advise Diamond on inclusive and accessible policies and procedures. Our goal is to engage with staff, users, and visitors to understand how we can meet their needs so that everyone at every level benefits.
How did you get involved with Diamond’s Universal Accessibility Network?
My work with the Committee is a result of my lifelong journey navigating Dyslexia. While my early career focused on independent research developing instrumentation, I had little interaction with big team environments. Later, at the CLF, I found myself in a user-focused facility, which meant having to balance the contrasts of creativity and three-dimensional thinking with many more communication challenges. I felt a sense of embarrassment that I couldn’t express because I couldn’t make sense of what I experienced. This all changed when a presentation about Dyslexia was organised by STFC. It was both a revelation and bit of a shock. What I had struggled with for over 45 years was clarified and it was ok!
I was encouraged to try out different approaches and tools by people who understood Dyslexia. Text to speech software has been crucial, from reading high level research papers to searching for web information. Small things like writing on paper with small squares and using capitalisation improve how my brain synchronises with what I put down on paper. I also learnt to share my experiences with others.
There is nothing universal in these approaches; every person experiences their own way of doing things, but I learnt how to support and learn from each other. What was previously exhausting is now an efficient process. Over time, this way of working that provided me with a sense of release.
What impact has your new way of working had on your career?
I could now accept and feel good about the challenges I had struggled with and focus more on my skills. A big step for my career was taking on management responsibilities. The whole experience had a very positive impact on the scientific aspects of my work.
People with learning differences like Dyslexia often have very strong skills like problem solving, clarity of vision, and creativity which are a huge benefit to teams and organisations, especially in science and engineering.
It is important in an organisation for everyone to feel in their element and that people do not have to justify difference. My goal as a manager is to embrace diversity and difference – it is also the best way to retain skills and talent.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get involved or seek information or support?
There are lots of options, but also no pressure or expectation. Not everyone is ready to talk but at Diamond there are various avenues to getting support such as the UAN and the EDI referred to above. As my own experience shows, each small step can have huge benefits personally and professionally.
What is your favourite thing about working at Diamond?
Embracing diversity is integral to the science and technology at Diamond. It is recognised that what we do is not just experiments with pieces of metal and electricity. We are human beings doing science. Taking care of our staff and colleagues has a positive impact on productivity and outcomes and leads to a deeper appreciation of human diversity.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
Copyright © 2022 Diamond Light Source
Diamond Light Source Ltd
Harwell Science & Innovation Campus
Diamond Light Source® and the Diamond logo are registered trademarks of Diamond Light Source Ltd
Registered in England and Wales at Diamond House, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 0DE, United Kingdom. Company number: 4375679. VAT number: 287 461 957. Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number: GB287461957003.