#WomenonWednesdays: Ellie Tubman

For this week’s #WomenonWednesdays interview, we spoke to Dr Ellie Tubman, a lecturer in Experimental ICF / HEDP Science.

As an introduction, what is your area of expertise within Physics?

I am a plasma physicist working on fusion energy and laboratory astrophysics using laser facilities such as NIF, Omega and Orion. You may have heard of NIF in California where they recently achieved ignition last Christmas where we got more energy out than we put in to our fuel, a really exciting result! I am particularly interested in the magnetic fields that can be generated in the interactions and how that affects the phenomena. At Imperial I am involved in teaching 1st year laboratory.

Describe your path into Physics, what kickstarted it?

I loved asking questions and finding out why things worked the way they did. Magnets always fascinated me as a kid and the cool things they could do- an invisible force! I also thought space and astronomy was mind-blowing- the expanse that is out there is amazing, and also slightly terrifying at times. I had really supportive teachers at school who definitely made me realise physics was the subject for me!

During your journey, what has your experience been being a woman in Physics?

I have found things have been changing and mostly for the better. As an undergraduate it was always the women on the course that did the best in the year, maybe we were all trying to prove our place I don’t know. But I found I had a really supportive department and never had many issues being a woman. As I went through my career I definitely found there were people who wouldn’t listen to you even if technically you were the one in charge, such as when I was leading experiments. There would be meetings I would sit in with everyone talking over each other and I often wouldn’t want to fight with that and so would never feel I could contribute to discussions. However now people are getting better and trying to be more inclusive in most environments. Most of the time anyway.

Looking back, what advice would you have for your younger self?

Believe in yourself and trust your intuition. There were many times, and still are times, that I won’t speak up for fear of being wrong. But actually the ideas I have or answers I might have started forming wouldn’t have been so far off the right one. And as long as you have the passion for what you are doing, keep doing it!