Diamond Snapshots

Let's get up close and personal with the scientists behind Diamond


David Pyle is a Professor of Earth Sciences at Oxford University and uses Diamond to study volcanoes.
1. What are you studying at Diamond?
I am exploring the long-term performance of nuclear waste materials that are destined for disposal in a geological facility, several hundreds of metres below the ground.

2. Why does this research require synchrotron light?
The Long Duration Experiment Facility at Diamond is the only one of its kind in the world. Using this facility, my team are observing very slow changes in nuclear waste materials, at very high resolution, over a two year period. These changes can be very small, so synchrotron light is essential.

3. What do you hope your work will achieve?

This research is extremely important because the UK’s nuclear waste will be radioactive for more than 100,000 years. Our long-duration experiments will enable us to predict the safety of this waste in a geological disposal facility over the long time periods required.

4. What advice would you give to young people who are interested in a career in science?
A great scientist is someone who works hard to understand how or why things work. My teachers told me I wasn’t clever enough to be a scientist, but I couldn’t help being interested and motivated to find out ‘why?’ so I kept trying anyway. My advice is – you can do it!

5. If you hadn’t been a scientist what else would you want to be?
I always wanted (and still want to be) an astronaut! Maybe if we work out a way to safely blast our nuclear waste into space, they might ask me to be involved!
Kristina Penman is a Diamond Laboratory Instrumentation Technician whose work is vital to supporting research.
1. How did you first become interested in science?
I think I have always been interested in science. As a child I always wanted to know how things worked and why things happened - I guess that never stopped.
2. You work as a laboratory technician. What does this involve and what do you enjoy about it?
As a lab technician my work is very diverse, from setting up new labs, providing training and assistance on a range of complex instrumentation and organising the day-to-day running of the labs so scientists have what they need for their experiments. What I really enjoy is the range of experiments that we can provide and working with lots of different teams and researchers.
3. Do you have a scientific hero? Who and why?
My scientific hero was my secondary school chemistry teacher Mr Cox. He was so enthusiastic about science and passionate about what he did. He loved to show us chemistry in action, and his favourite demonstration was adding potassium to water. Unfortunately the chemical reaction was rather loud and he had to retire early because he lost his hearing!
4. What advice would you give to young people who are interested in a career in science?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem trivial, as you can bet there are other people who are wondering the same thing. The main function of Diamond is to continue to answer the fundamental questions that scientists are posing today.
5. If you hadn’t been a scientist, what else would you want to be?
I wanted to be a vet when I was in primary school but the BBC show ‘Vet School’ put me off because I realised it was far too gory for me. So it was either science or a professional ballroom dancer...      

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