My 59th guest is Daisy, an experimental physicist, passionate science communicator and autism advocate.
Hi Daisy! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?
Hi! I’m Daisy and I’m an experimental physicist and quantum technology researcher and I’m autistic. I grew up in Norfolk, England and did an integrated master’s degree in physics (MPhys) at the University of Surrey once I left high school. After my degree, I stayed at Surrey to do a PhD in physics. My PhD research focuses on semiconductor spintronics which is a subfield of quantum technology and solid-state physics.
When did you start your Instagram account? How did you get the idea?
I started microblogging on Instagram a few months into my PhD in December 2018. I wanted to share some of what I was doing with family and friends because not many of them knew what I got up to day-to-day as a researcher. Since then, my page has gained quite a large audience so I decided to start a blog to accompany my instagram page for more long-form posts. I also have a YouTube channel but I haven’t posted for a while– I’m hoping to pick it back up once I’ve finished writing my thesis.
Can you tell us something about how you balance work and private life?
I try to keep work boundaries as much as I can. This can be hard given the culture of overwork in academia, but I’m happy that I keep evenings and weekends as free as I can to have a life outside work. I try to make time for seeing family and indulge in my hobbies. I’m a huge gardener and baker and recently started learning how to knit. Having enough rest time is so important, especially when it comes to avoiding autistic burnout as building recovery time into my schedule is the main thing that helps me recharge my energy at the end of the week.
During your academic studies how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?
Not that many. I think that out of around 120 people in my cohort there were about 20 women, so quite a small amount. Physics is one of the notoriously male-dominated fields within STEM (the other notable ones being engineering and computer science) and I think it mostly comes down to the gender stereotyping we see from a very young age. There’s a big push in physics to break down these stereotypes so that more girls feel comfortable studying physics at A-levle and applying to do physics degrees after high school.
Have you ever felt harassed or being kept apart as a scholar because you are a woman?
Not particularly, luckily! I’ve found that I haven’t encountered that many challenges related to my gender apart from feeling like I stick out and not having that many role-models that I can relate to.
How did you become passionate about science?
I’ve always been curious about the world around me and love physics because it’s a way to use maths to explore the fundamental workings of the universe and make useful things with that knowledge.
Would you like to talk briefly about your job?
I’m a postgraduate researcher working in the photonics and quantum sciences group at the university’s Advanced Technology Institute. I’m researching a class of materials called semiconductors, specifically InSb, to see if we can better understand a property called electron spin and control said property in these materials. I get to do a mixture of fundamental quantum physics experiments, nanodevice fabrication, and computational modelling of new devices. The main aim of my project is to produce a spin-polarizing device which could be used for spin injection into a variety of quantum technology applications.
Thank you so much for your time. Lastly, can you give any advice to girls interested in STEM?
Follow your passion and don’t listen to anyone who says you’re not meant to be in STEM! And never be afraid to ask for help or advice.