Category: Interviews

#WomenonWednesdays: Heather Graven

For this week’s interview we spoke with Dr. Heather Graven, a Reader in Climate Physics. Dr. Graven will teach Statistics of Measurement for first year undergraduates this year.

What was your path into Physics and your current research?

I was always interested in science and Physics but my degree was actually in Chemical Engineering. I did that at Caltech, so we did quite a bit of Physics even if I was in a different major. Then I did my PhD in Earth Science. It’s great to be here in Physics at Imperial and I do use lots of different physics in my research, which is one of the things that I think is really great about it. We use accelerators to make radiocarbon measurements, we use laser spectrometers for other atmospheric measurements, we do lots of fluid dynamics and modelling with high-performance computers.


#WomenonWednesdays: Alie Craplet

Today we bring you an interview with Alie Craplet, a PhD student in the High Energy Physics group who also did her undergrad at Imperial!

Describe your path into physics. Who were your inspirations?

My path into physics was actually one of indecisiveness. I come from the French system, I’m originally French, and I always liked science – I was good at it, but without really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I got told that Physics keeps as many doors open as a subject can. At first, I wanted to do Maths and then I realised that I was not that mathsy, so I went into Theoretical Physics instead. I knew I wanted to stay in London, so for me it was almost more of a university-based approach rather than a subject-based approach. I was interested in Quantum Physics; I’d read a few books about it. My grandad actually did a PhD in Physics in France many years ago, but it’s not like a family trade – he never really talked to me about it, I knew he had done it, but I wouldn’t say he inspired me.


#WomenonWednesdays: Adriana Bercebal

This week for #WomenonWednesdays we spoke to fourth-year undergraduate and Imperial Physics Review co-founder Adriana Bercebal!

Describe your path into physics, what kickstarted it?

When I was small, my dad used to tell me bedtime stories. Every night I would ask “What have you discovered today?”, and he would explain the science news he had read that day. This really made me enjoy astrophysics and particle physics. Since then I have always been eager to learn more and more.


#WomenonWednesdays: Elizabeth Pasatembou

Today we’re really excited to bring you an interview with Elizabeth Pasatembou, a PhD student in the High Energy Physics group!

Describe your path into physics, what kickstarted it?

Growing up in a small town in Cyprus, I did not have any connection with science, let alone physics. I grew up being a very curious child, always exploring my surroundings, asking a lot of “whys”, and generally loved learning new things, curious about what could be beyond the small town I was raised in. I commuted to the “big city” for high school and was lucky enough to have great science teachers who sparked my interest in science. I did not consider a career in physics, or barely knew what that was, until I started my physics GCSE. I will be forever grateful to the first physicist I have ever met who happened to be my physics teacher who believed in me and inspired me to continue my physics journey. I never felt like an outlier in his classes, being one of the very few girls and that was very encouraging. The more I studied physics the more I loved it and decided to pursue physics, moving to an even bigger city, London to follow my dreams. I am now a first generation graduate having graduated with an MSci degree in Physics and an MSc in Space Science and Engineering from UCL.


#WomenonWednesdays: Katie Marrow

This week for #WomenonWednesdays we spoke to Katie Marrow, a first-year PhD student in the Plasma Physics group and University Challenge contestant for Imperial.

Describe your path into physics, what kickstarted it?

I’ve wanted to be a physicist since I was about 9. I was very interested in space so had toyed with the idea of becoming an astronaut, but then I heard about the LHC and decided a particle physicist was much cooler. This ambition persisted to the point that several years later I persuaded my family to go on holiday to Geneva so that we could visit CERN. Once I came to university, a combination of my first-year research project and UROPs made me realise that I really love plasma physics and I want to go into experimental research. Now I’m lucky enough to be starting a PhD in plasma at Imperial in October.


#WomenonWednesdays: Meriame Berboucha

This week we talked to Meriame Berboucha, a PhD student in the Plasma Physics group currently based at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California.

Describe your path into physics, what kickstarted it?

During my A levels I was taken to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot for a medical physics masterclass and I fell in love with the subject – I was interested in helping others and I loved physics and maths and it seemed like the perfect subject for me.

Even though I had written my personal statement for medical school already, I scraped it a few months before the deadline, to apply for physics degrees at university. At the time I felt like I was taking a gamble and my parents wanted me to do medicine, but deep down I really enjoyed physics and that is what I wanted to do. I owe a lot to my physics A level teacher though for really making me feel included in the class and not ‘weird’ for studying the subject. I then became the first woman at that school to take physics onto higher education.


#WomenonWednesdays: Trinity Stenhouse

For our first Women on Wednesdays this academic year, we’ve talked to Trinity Stenhouse, a third-year student on the MSci Physics with Theoretical Physics course. She’s also currently Vice-President (Activities) of the RCSU and is involved in the IC WNBiP committee!

Describe your path into physics, what kickstarted it?

I’ve always been interested in how things work, but I’ve also always had really broad interests. For me, physics was a way to understand how, fundamentally, everything works.

I was also really lucky to have a teacher at my high school who took me under his wing and taught me physics content well above A level. He saw that I was always bored and doodling in lessons so gave me a project to do investigating dynamical theories above the standard model that could explain the Higgs hierarchy problem. I got really invested in it and spent a lot of time researching theories. This helped me recognise my passion for research and establish that I would like to do a PhD one day in particle physics.


#WomenonWednesdays: Su Ann Lim

For our final Women on Wednesdays interview of the term, we’ve talked to Su Ann Lim, a fourth-year student on the MSci Physics with Theoretical Physics course, who is also Secretary of WiP!

Introduce yourself! What do you like to do outside of physics?

My name is Su Ann and I am currently a 4th year undergraduate in the Theoretical Physics course. I’m also the Secretary for the Women in Physics committee this year and I feel so lucky to be part of a community of strong, intelligent women. I come from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and getting the chance to live and study in London for the past 4 years has been amazing! There’s such a wide variety of people here, especially Imperial, so it’s been really nice getting to meet people from so many different cultures. Some things I do when I’m not struggling over my problem sheets are bouldering, listening to k-pop, reading and watching anime!


#WomenonWednesdays: Jessie Durk

This week for the series we interviewed Dr. Jessie Durk, Research Associate in the Physics Education Group at the Department and Vice-President of our very own Women in Physics Society!

As a little introduction, what of Physics do you specialize in?

I specialise in physics education, which involves educational psychology, social/cognitive science, and data analysis, as well as knowledge of physics itself to be able to research how students learn different physics topics, and the most effective ways to teach and assess students. I’m currently working on the Strengthening Learning Communities project which aims to improve students’ sense of belonging in the department.


#WomenonWednesdays: Julia Stawarz

Today’s interview is with Dr. Julia Stawarz, a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the SPAT group, working in space plasma physics.

As a little introduction, what area of Physics do you specialize in?  

I work in the field of space plasma physics using measurements from spacecraft to study the dynamics of a number of different plasmas in near-Earth space – mainly the fast flow of hot plasma that expands from the Sun (known as the solar wind) and the region of space influenced by Earth’s magnetic field (known as the magnetosphere). Some of the spacecraft that I work with are NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale and Parker Solar Probe missions and ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission (the magnetometer for which was built here at Imperial!). Using this data, I focus on studying some of the fundamental processes that operate in a plasma, including plasma turbulence (the highly-nonlinear, seemingly chaotic dynamics of the plasma) and magnetic reconnection (the sudden release of stored magnetic energy in the plasma into the charged particles), both in terms of understanding how they influence the interaction between the Sun and the Earth and understanding the fundamental physics that may be applicable to other plasmas throughout the Universe.